British oil giant BP said yesterday it could sell its 50 percent stake in its Russian joint venture TNK-BP.
TNK-BP, Russia’s third-largest oil producer, is a joint venture between BP and AAR, a consortium of Russian billionaire shareholders. The company has been mired in a corporate dispute since AAR blocked a BP deal with Russian oil company Rosneft.
BP said in a statement yesterday that it had received “unsolicited indications of interest” for its share in TNK-BP and was looking to pursue a potential sale which is “consistent with BP’s commitment to maximizing shareholder value.”
BP’s spokesman in Russia Vladimir Buyanov said that information about the potential buyer was confidential and declined to specify whether the offer might have come from the Russian shareholders.
Buyanov said the shareholders’ agreement between BP and AAR required both parties to notify the other of offers to acquire their holdings.
However, BP said that “there can be no guarantee that any transaction will take place.”
AAR had previously indicated that it might be interested in raising its stake in TNK-BP. AAR’s spokesman in Moscow declined to comment any aspect of BP’s announcement.
TNK-BP chief executive Mikhail Fridman, one of the members of AAR, unexpectedly stepped down on Monday.
In an interview with the Russian daily Kommersant he cited tensions between the shareholders as a reason for his departure and said the parity ownership of TNK-BP no longer worked.
Fridman said in the interview that AAR might be interested in increasing its stake, but it would also consider selling some of its stake in exchange for BP shares.
TNK-BP’s shares were 1 percent up in morning trading on Moscow’s MICEX stock exchange yesterday.