Britain orders Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman to sell his North Sea gas fields within six months.
LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) - Britain ordered Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman to sell his North Sea gas fields within six months, an intervention that ratchets up the pressure on one of Russia's most influential tycoons two weeks before a UK election.
Upping the ante in a standoff that some Russian businessmen say shows their capital is no longer welcome in the West, Britain's energy minister told Fridman's investment vehicle that its North Sea licences would be revoked unless they were sold.
Britain's first such order in the sector follows LetterOne's acquisition of the fields last month as part of a 5.1 billion euro takeover of RWE's DEA oil unit. Prime Minister David Cameron opposed the purchase of the British fields.
Energy Minister Ed Davey "proposes to revoke DEA UK's North Sea petroleum licences unless LetterOne arranges for a further change of control of the DEA UK gas fields in the North Sea", the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry, which said the decision was made after assessing cross-government views, said Davey had given LetterOne six months to sell the assets.
LetterOne declined to comment.
After a showdown with President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, the prospect of a Russian tycoon buying British energy assets is politically unpalatable, especially so close to the election.
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