TNK-BP settlement welcomed in Brussels

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An agreement between BP and TNK over the governance of their joint Russian undertaking was welcomed in Brussels, where the European Commission is following the situation closely after Shell, the Anglo-Dutch energy giant, was forced to pull out of a lucrative gas project in Siberia.

The agreement came after months of wrangling between BP and Alfa Access-Renova, the owners of TNK, over the joint venture’s management structure. Under the agreement, BP will keep its 50 percent stake in the joint company, on an equal footing with TNK.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the two sides on Thursday (4 September) aims to re-structure the TNK-BP board “through the appointment of three new directors independent of either side”.

Bob Dudley, the current CEO, “will step down before the end of the year,” BP said, and will be replaced by “a Russian-speaking candidate with extensive Russian business experience”. Details of the agreement still have to be finalised over the coming months, but BP stressed that the company “will continue to operate under English law”.

In a statement, BP’s chairman Peter Sutherland said the agreement “will create a stable base from which to grow the joint venture to the benefit of everyone involved, including the Russian state for which strong capital investment and continued technical innovation to boost declining oil output are so important”.

In Brussels, the European Commission welcomed the agreement, saying it “marks the resolution of the conflict inside the Euro-Russian oil consortium”.

The power struggle at TNK-BP is being followed closely in Brussels after Shell was forced out of the Sakhalin-2 natural gas project, in a move which Europeans believe was politically motivated. 

Shell ceded control of the project to Gazprom in December 2006 after months of regulatory investigations by the Russian state, which included concerns over the conservation of whale breeding grounds.

“The Commission has been closely following the crisis inside TNK-BP from the very beginning and has been in regular contact with the parties concerned,” said EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs in a statement. “I am confident that this agreement shall allow energy supplies from TNK-BP to fully come on stream on the global markets.”

This might not spell the end of trouble for BP however. The company is currently still subject to investigations by the Russian state over allegations that it tried to circumvent labour laws.

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