Background: AAR & Rosneft


Last week, it was announced that TNK-BP’s Russian shareholders won a Swedish court injunction that will block BP’s tie-up with Rosneft until early next month at least.  Approaching the situation with a nubile eye, you might be forgiven for mistaking it all for some kind of shocking drama.  But the fact is that the likes of this latest TNK-BP dispute happen all the time.  It’s a function of the fact that anyone who has serious power in the country also has ties to the Kremlin, and no company more so than Alfa, it seems.  Interesting to keep in mind that Mikhail Fridman’s arm of the Alfa-Access-Renova triumvirate, which owns the Russian half of TNK-BP, has long had close ties with the government.  Back in 2004, Stratfor reported that Alfa Group was Vladimir Putin’s ‘power center‘, which he was going to need in order to stay in control (the piece was archived externally): 
The Alfa Group appears able and willing — under the condition that it is recognized as a new power center and allowed to cut a larger slice of Russian wealth for itself — to align with Putin and try to help him. Fridman and Aven are not typical oligarchs who habitually fight the president’s power and deceive foreign investors, although they have been rumored extensively in the past to do just that. Today, they are in the good graces of Western media and the co-owners of TNK-BP, and are credited with splitting the united front Khodorkovsky tried to mount against the president in 2003. Alfa is on the winning side, with Putin and the West.”

As for Rosneft: earlier this year, WikiLeaks leaked a company memo from December 2007, which stated that then-CEO Bogdanchikov ‘did not see any major structural changes in Russia’s oil industry in 2008 and insisted Rosneft has no interest in the non-BP half of TNK-BP.‘  But Bogdanchikov was booted from the top seat at Rosneft for ‘no reason‘ in September last year; and, now that long-time Putin ally Igor Sechin holds arguably the most powerful role in the company, things have changed.  As the BP-Rosneft tie-up was announced so soon after Bogdanchikov’s dismissal, and as its greatest champion, in spite of all the setbacks, has been Sechin, the implication is that this deal has long been planned, and will go ahead.  
The question is, then, what is the nature of the AAR injunction?  Will they be satisfied with a big buy-out, and if not, can Putin can afford their wrath?  Either way, it’s all much more interesting than fiction.
Image: Russian Civil War poster, which reads: Long Live World October [revolution]! The workers conquered power in Russia and will conquer power in the entire world.