TNK-BP's Russian shareholders may sell out


MOSCOW -- BP's billionaire Russian partners in TNK-BP indicated on Tuesday that they are considering selling their stake in the oil joint venture or disposing of it through an IPO.

Moscow-based TNK-BP is jointly owned by BP and AAR, a group of Russian billionaire shareholders. The two partners have been locked in a boardroom dispute for much of the group's existence. In June, BP said it intended to sell its 50 percent in TNK-BP, which AAR signaled it would be interested in buying. Among the other bidders for the share is Russia's largest oil company Rosneft, chaired by Putin's former energy czar Igor Sechin.

On Tuesday, AAR's chief executive Stan Polovets said it had notified BP of its intention to sell its holding as well.

"We continue to work on an offer for BP's shareholding in TNK-BP and have no intention of selling out if we are successful or BP decides to retain its stake," Polovets said in an emailed comment. "However, this notice gives us additional flexibility including pursuing an IPO or a disposal option which may be a way to optimize returns for shareholders."

A source close to AAR, who refused to be named because he was unauthorized to comment publicly, said that AAR may be able to sell its stake through an IPO in case Rosneft buys out BP. The source said that Russian group's move would provide the Russian shareholders with an exit strategy in case Rosneft wins the bid for BP's stake.

The source said that the AAR shareholders doubt that Rosneft has the technology or expertise to match BP's and this could hamper TNK-BP's international expansion.

TNK-BP has been a key asset for BP, representing 27 percent of its reserves and 29 percent of its production. Its stake, when sold, could fetch some $15 billion.