By Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW, April 23 (Reuters) - The head of Rosneft said he would cooperate with minority shareholders in TNK-BP Holding but warned Russia’s top oil producer was not a “charity fund”, after investors complained of unfair treatment.
Igor Sechin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Rosneft was in dialogue with shareholders, and waiting for proposals from them, just months after saying he had no obligation to them and would not offer a buyout on completion of Rosneft’s $55 billion purchase of TNK-BP.
“We will treat everyone with respect, but we also want you to treat us with respect because we are a business unit, we are not a charity fund,” Sechin said in answer to a question at Rosneft’s investor meeting in London, which was webcast. “It’s important that you don’t mix those two up.”
Russian companies have had a chequered history regarding how they treat minority investors. State-controlled bank VTB last year bought back shares from investors who lost out having seen their stock fall since a 2007 initial public offering, but the offer only applied to small shareholders.
First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said last week that Rosneft intended to resolve the problem and would be respectful to minorities.
“We are prepared to work openly and if there are constructive proposals we are happy to consider them,” Sechin said on Tuesday.
Rosneft bought the Anglo-Russian oil producer from BP, which ended up with an almost 20-percent stake in Rosneft as a part of the deal, as well as a consortium of four Soviet-born tycoons.
It acquired 95 percent in the traded unit, TNK-BP Holding, of which minority shareholders still own almost 5 percent.
Veteran investor Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Franklin Templeton’s emerging markets group, said last week the TNK-BP buy-out “is the kind of issue that gives pause for thought on the behalf of investors coming to Russia”.
Sources close to the minority shareholders previously told Reuters they thought Rosneft should buy them out for $2.8 billion, based on what Rosneft paid for its stake in TNK-BP.
Sechin also said Rosneft’s dividend policy was standard, at 25 percent of net profit. TNK-BP Holding used to pay dividends at more than 70 percent of profit. Sechin did not comment on what level TNK-BP minority shareholders could expect.
Shares of TNK-BP rose 3 percent on Tuesday but are still about 40 percent below this year’s January peak, before Rosneft completed the purchase.