August 15, 2008

Russian Legal Blow for BP Ally

By David Prosser

BP HAS suffered its most serious setback so far in the battle raging over control of its TNK-BP joint venture, with a Russian court banning Robert Dudley, the unit's chief executive, from holding office in the country for two years.

TNK-BP said it would appeal against the ruling, made by a labour court that has found the company guilty of breaches of Russian employment laws, and that Mr Dudley would continue in his role until this appeal had been heard. Ultimately, however, if the judgment is upheld, Mr Dudley would be forced to resign as head of TNK-BP.

That outcome would represent a major victory for AAR, the Russian investment group that controls the 50 per cent of TNK-BP not owned by BP. AAR and BP have been engaged in a bitter row over the running of the company, with the Russians repeatedly calling for Mr Dudley's resignation.

Mr Dudley, who in recent weeks has been running TNK-BP from outside Russia having failed to extend his work permit, could not be reached for comment. However, a spokesman for BP said the court's ruling had been made on the basis of trivial breaches of the law and that it was part of a campaign of harassment.

"We are very disappointed with this decision - however Bob Dudley remains CEO pending completion of an appeal process," the oil giant said. "We believe this is clearly a further example of administrative activity orchestrated by the other shareholders in TNK-BP."

(c) 2008 Independent, The; London (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.