BP says awaiting word from AAR on TNK-BP stake
MOSCOW (Reuters) - As BP's (BP.L) partners in TNK-BP TNBP.MM faced a deadline to make a formal expression of interest in the British major's half of the Russian oil firm, BP said on Friday it had received no word from the four Soviet-born billionaires but was willing to consider an offer.
The Alfa-Access-Renova consortium, which collectively controls half of the Anglo-Russian oil firm, has 45 days to make a counter offer under a procedure laid out in the TNK-BP shareholder agreement.
BP said on June 1 it would pursue a sale after receiving offers for its stake, making for a deadline of July 21, once Russian bank holidays are taken into account.
Sources have said a Russian state holding which controls the country's top oil producer, Rosneft (ROSN.MM), was among the bidders.
Mikhail Fridman, chairman of the Alfa Group, told reporters in Israel late last month that there were no talks on a possible sale.
A spokesman for the AAR consortium declined on Friday to comment on a media report that it would make an expression of interest in buying half of BP's stake within the next two weeks.
"While we haven't yet seen anything, if AAR do express an interest we will consider it alongside the indications of interest that we have already received," a BP spokesman said.
"We look forward to receiving their offer and considering it in detail."
Sources close to both sides have said a new outbreak of hostilities in late May between BP and AAR over TNK-BP marks the beginning of the end of their nine-year partnership in Russia's third largest oil producer.
Rosneft, which joined BP in an attempt to buy out AAR last year, hoping to end the four billionaires' stand against BP's role in a joint Arctic drilling venture, could ultimately buy them out and control TNK-BP jointly with BP.
Sources close to both sides have warned the process is not likely to be a quick one. A source close to one of the AAR shareholders said even a successful bid by the four billionaires was unlikely to be a straightforward buyout.
"In all likelihood there could be a different construction that they could work out together with (Rosneft chief executive Igor) Sechin," the source said. "It will be a multi-stage deal."
Fridman went to London on a road show at the end of June to take his case for a buyout of BP's stake to the British major's equity shareholders.
Financial and banking sources in Moscow and London said AAR had not strengthened its position as a potential buyer on the trip and the shape of a final potential deal remained unclear.
Fridman, whose consortium rejected a $32 billion offer for its own stake from Rosneft and BP last year, told the Wall Street Journal last week that AAR would prefer to sell its stake over a 5-7 year period in exchange for a substantial stake in BP itself as well as cash.
But analysts say BP shareholders are unlikely to welcome a large share issue to accommodate such a deal, and previous attempts by AAR to put it on the table have not meet with BP's favor.
Fridman and his partners have been moving to internationalize their holdings over time, taking stakes in foreign companies and expanding their Russian businesses around the world.
Most recently, a London based fund which says it holds $1.5 billion in Alfa money, Pamplona Capital, bought 5 percent of Italian bank UniCredit (CRDI.MI).
(Reporting by Douglas Busvine, Melissa Akin, Olga Popova and Tessa Walsh; Writing by Melissa Akin. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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