Alfa Denies Ties to Firm In BP Suit

Billionaire Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group on Thursday denied any connection with Tetlis, a little-known company that filed a lawsuit against TNK-BP in a Siberian court.

Tetlis' management has "no relation whatsoever and in no way is connected with Alfa Group," Fridman's holding company said in a statement. Fridman is among a group of Russian billionaires that owns TNK-BP with BP.

An injunction from a Tyumen court bars BP specialists from working at TNK-BP until Tetlis' suit, which objects to a 2003 employee contract, is resolved. The ban may hinder the firm in developing new fields, TNK-BP's chief operating officer, Tim Summers, said Wednesday.

In a May 13 interview, Tetlis general director and founder Alexander Tagayev confirmed information on his company's web site that in the 1990s he worked at Alfa Capital and Alfa Bank, units of Alfa Group. Alfa's statement Thursday specifically denied any connection to Tagayev and Vadim Zykov, Tetlis' executive director.

TNK-BP is already under pressure after authorities gave it an environmental warning, BP workers had visa problems and investigators raided their headquarters and charged an employee with industrial espionage. The company has yet to complete a deal to sell Gazprom its Kovykta gas project amid speculation the gas-export monopoly plans to buy out the Russian shareholders.

The company's legal troubles may, in fact, be connected with disagreements between BP and the Russian shareholders, Vedomosti reported Wednesday. Alfa denied any disagreement with BP.

BP holds 50 percent of TNK-BP International, while Alfa and companies controlled by billionaires Len Blavatnik, German Khan and Viktor Vekselberg own the other half. TNK-BP International holds about 95 percent of TNK-BP Holding. Tetlis owns about 0.13 percent of the company.

n BP CEO Tony Hayward will meet with three of the Russian billionaires who control half of TNK-BP, The Wall Street Journal said, citing people close to the matter.