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16 Jun, 2008 15:40

See you in court! TNK-BP dispute turns ugly

Russian shareholders in the joint company TNK-BP say they will take legal action against its president, Robert Dudley, who they say pursues the interests of BP but not of its Russian partners. They also accuse Dudley of violating Russian law. As the confr

Company chairman Mikhail Fridman wants to curb Dudley's authority and push for Russian shareholders to have the same say in the boardroom.

Last month Russian shareholders demanded that Dudley step down, accusing him of putting BP’s interest first, but BP has rejected calls for his dismissal. Mikhail Fridman, chairman of TNK-BP-Moscow, said:

“We need to have a leader with power, but one who is a completely independent, unbiased professional who can lead an independent company, not a branch of BP”.

A source close to British shareholders of TNK-BP said the legal action was part of a plan to gain control of the company illegitimately and likened it to corporate raiding, Interfax news agency reported.

Russian shareholders claim they have been pushed into taking court action. They say there has been minimal growth and that BP insists on keeping TNK-BP within the borders of Russia and Ukraine.

According to Fridman, one of the main disappointments is the failure to launch projects in the West which makes it difficult to compete with fully-Russian companies like Lukoil.

Since 2003, Lukoil's value has grown from around $US 16 to 96 billion. Meanwhile, TNK-BP growth has been much less, from only $US 16 to 40 billion.

“BP have their own interests in those countries and have plans there or are already working there and they don’t want us to be competition,” said Fridman.