BP Warned Of More Pressure

TNK-BP's Russian co-owners will not sell out for at least two years and will put more pressure on their partner BP to achieve their goal of boosting performance, co-owner Mikhail Fridman said.

Fridman, chairman of Alfa Group, said he believed that one of the main reasons for the corporate war at TNK-BP between BP and the Russian co-owners was an attempt by BP to squeeze him and his Russian partners out with the help of Gazprom.

But he said: "I'm prepared to make a bet. Gazprom will not buy and Rosneft will not buy these shares within, let's say, two years," Fridman said in an interview.

Gazprom and Rosneft have been long rumored to be seeking a stake in TNK-BP.

BP and the Russian co-owners have clashed over TNK-BP's structure and strategy since May, but many analysts believe that the real dispute is over future ownership of the company.

The Russian co-owners have accused BP of limiting TNK-BP's international expansion and employing too many foreign secondees from BP. They have demanded that TNK-BP CEO Robert Dudley resign, accusing him of favoring the interests of BP.

Fridman said the Russian shareholders were not happy with TNK-BP's operating performance, citing its low market value, compared with peers like LUKoil, and its falling production.

BP has rejected the accusations and rejected the demand for Dudley to resign. The Russian co-owners filed a suit in Russia to overturn Dudley's board nominees for TNK-BP's June 26 annual meeting.

Fridman said the Russian side would press its demands in court with a lawsuit in a Stockholm arbitration court to follow.

"What I've learned from my relations with BP is that without pressure they will not react," he said.

Asked whether BP should expect more pressure, Fridman replied, "Yes."

Fridman said he still hoped to reach a compromise with BP and said the dispute would not affect TNK-BP's operating performance.