| LONDON, Sept 28
LONDON, Sept 28 BP and its billionaire
partners in TNK-BP face off in arbitration on
Wednesday, as the UK oil giant refutes claims it broke a
shareholder agreement and should pay $4.9 billion in damages.
BP prompted the spat with AAR, the consortium of Russian and
Russia-connected oligarchs who own half of TNK-BP, by agreeing a
share swap and Arctic exploration deal with state-controlled
AAR secured a court injunction that scuppered the tie-up.
Now AAR is asking a Stockholm-based tribunal to rule on
whether the planned Rosneft deal represented a breach of the
TNK-BP shareholder pact, under which BP agreed to use TNK-BP as
its main investment vehicle in Russia.
AAR believes the failure to execute the Rosneft tie-up
through TNK-BP cost it billions.
Minority shareholders in TNK-BP, with whom AAR denies any
relationship, have filed a lawsuit in a Russian court seeking
154.3 billion roubles ($4.9 billion) in damages.
Sources close to the matter said the hearings on Wednesday
were aimed at deciding whether BP had broken the agreement, and
that any damage awards would be decided later.
A BP spokesman on Wednesday repeated earlier denials that
AAR or minority shareholders in TNK-BP had suffered as a result
of BP's decision to try and do the deal with Rosneft.
BP has argued that Rosneft would not have chosen TNK-BP as a
partner since it lacked offshore drilling expertise.
AAR was not available for comment. BP declined comment on
the arbitration hearing. The hearings are usually held by phone
or in London legal chambers.
($1 = 31.699 Russian Roubles)
(Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by David Hulmes)