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BEIJING/HONG KONG - China reiterated its opposition on Thursday to a European Union plan to limit airline carbon dioxide emissions and called for talks to resolve the issue a day after its major airlines refused to pay any carbon costs under the new law.
BP, Russian partners trade barbs over joint venture
STOCKHOLM/MOSCOW (Reuters) - British oil major BP Plc (BP.L) accused the Russian partners in its TNK-BP joint venture of acting like corporate raiders on Thursday, but the Russian shareholders countered that BP had insulted the Kremlin.
The exchange added to the hostile atmosphere in a boardroom battle that has alarmed investors and cast a shadow over TNK-BP TNBPI.RTS, a unit that accounts for a quarter of BP's worldwide output and 20 percent of its reserves.
A day after the Russian shareholders announced they were suing the British company, BP chairman Peter Sutherland accused them of trying to seize control over Russia's third largest oil producer while Kremlin leaders stood by and watched.
"This is just a return to the corporate raiding activities that were prevalent in Russia in the 1990s. Prime Minister (Vladimir) Putin has referred to these tactics as relics of the 1990s, but unfortunately our partners continue to use them," Sutherland told a press conference in Stockholm.
"The leaders of the country seem unwilling or unable to step in and stop them. This is bad for us, bad for the company and of course very bad for Russia."
The consortium of Russian tycoons, which holds 50 percent of TNK-BP shares, hit back. In an interview with Reuters, billionaire shareholder Viktor Vekselberg called Sutherland's comments "offensive.
Mikhail Fridman of Alfa Group, another consortium member, said in a statement Sutherland should stop lecturing the Russian government. "We find Mr. Sutherland's comment unhelpful and, frankly, insulting to the Russian leadership," he said.
The battle between BP, which holds the other 50 percent of TNK-BP shares, and its partners has become increasingly hostile and public in recent weeks. "It's war," said one analyst who asked not to be named.
The dispute has been waged against the backdrop of persistent rumors that a Russian state-owned firm, possibly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) or Rosneft (ROSN.MM), is trying to muscle in on the lucrative venture. The firms deny that.
Industry analysts say a legal onslaught on TNK-BP this year -- including police searches of its headquarters and industrial espionage charges against an employee -- may be linked to the corporate battle.
The outcome of the dispute is widely seen as a litmus test for the investment climate in Russia.
The Russian shareholders, who together make up the AAR consortium, said on Wednesday they would sue the British company after it rejected their demands for more boardroom clout within the joint venture.
They plan legal challenges in the international arbitration court in Stockholm and in Russia.
The Russians have criticized governance at TNK-BP, which is headed by a former BP executive, saying BP was trying to run the firm as its subsidiary and seeking to sideline the Russian shareholders from decision-making.
In his interview with Reuters, Vekselberg said the AAR consortium had discussed with BP the idea of an equity swap. Under that arrangement, the Russian shareholders would exchange their share in TNK-BP for equity in BP, Vekselberg said.
But he stressed there were no negotiations on an immediate sale. "I think that's not very relevant at the moment. What is relevant is a resolution to the conflict," he said. He also said again that AAR had no plans to sell to a Russian firm.
TNK-BP was the largest foreign investment in Russia when it was set up in 2003. Analysts said TNK-BP group, which includes a 95 percent stake in TNK-BP Holding and a half share of oil firm Slavneft, is worth around $45 billion.
BP shares shrugged off the latest development and last traded up 0.42 percent to 596.38, outperforming a 0.42 percent fall in the DJ Stoxx European oil and gas sector index .SXEP.
(Writing by Tom Bergin and Christian Lowe; editing by Carol Bishopric)
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