BP Awaits the Grand Arbiter

sopranos052008.jpgThe troubles just don’t seem to stop for TNK-BP in Russia – not even after the inauguration of Medvedev and the theoretical “end” to the instability and infighting of the clans. We’ve blogged about the state’s assault on this oil interest from the beginning to the most recent imbroglios, and never cease to be impressed by the enduring longevity of the dispute. It seems that despite Putin’s best efforts to make it clear how power and influence is structured in the new government, that some clans and/or state officials are still unhappy with their cut, and eager to fight for more turf (at the expense of British shareholders). Like an out-of-control mafia war, it seems that the “grand arbiter” will eventually have to step up to the plate eventually to settle this one. Tonight the Financial Times reports that state security service agents have raided BP’s Moscow offices. Again.:

Russian security service agents raided BP’s offices in Moscow for the second time in two months, raising concerns that it is coming under mounting pressure ahead of an ownership shake-up of its oil venture, TNK-BP. (…) A BP spokesman confirmed agents from Russia’s Federal Security Services, or FSB, raided the offices yesterday but declined to disclose further details, saying that the company was co-operating with the investigation. One person close to the company said the raids looked to be connected with the earlier investigation.

One industry expert said speculation in Moscow was mounting that Gazprom could seek to fold TNK-BP into a merger with Gazprom Neft, its oil arm, potentially leaving BP with a 25 percent stake in the bigger venture.Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov declined to comment on the prospects for such a deal.Gazprom has said it is anxious to close its purchase of TNK-BP’s stake in the vast Kovykta gas field in east Siberia. The company had agreed to sell the stake to Gazprom last summer following government allegations it was in breach of the terms of its licence agreement. The deal has been repeatedly delayed.

[graphic arts sourced from Zhgun.ru]