BP lost again in Arctic deal to ExxonMobil: sources

Mon Mar 4, 2013 2:16pm EST
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By Melissa Akin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - BP (BP.L: Quote), which lost its first deal to drill for oil in Russia's Arctic to ExxonMobil (XOM.N: Quote), tried to negotiate a new deal with Russian state oil company Rosneft (ROSN.MM: Quote) and was again beaten to the punch by its U.S. rival.

ExxonMobil won access to the Arctic Laptev Sea fields, where Rosneft's prospective reserves amount to 36 billion barrels of oil equivalent, under a deal last month, but three industry sources said BP had also been in talks with Rosneft to explore several blocks there.

Setbacks have become the norm for BP's activities in Russia, where it formed a joint venture, TNK-BP TNBP.MM, in 2003, by pooling its assets with those of four Soviet-born billionaires. It is currently selling out of that troubled venture to Rosneft.

TNK-BP became a battle of wills between the British firm and the tycoons, who blocked BP's first attempt to form an Arctic exploration deal with Rosneft, a deal that BP executives had compared to the opening of a new North Sea.

Having negotiated that venture, which the tycoons said was in breach of the TNK-BP agreement, BP had to step aside and watch ExxonMobil take the spoils in 2011.

Now Rosneft has preferred ExxonMobil for the Laptev fields, even though BP will become a significant shareholder of Rosneft in April and name two directors to its board as part of the takeover of TNK-BP.

The government has even offered Dudley a seat on the board at state controlled Rosneft, headed by Igor Sechin, an influential ally of President Vladimir Putin.

BP and Rosneft were unable to respond immediately to a request for comment.   Continued...

A BP logo is seen in front of an apartment block near a petrol station in Moscow October 22, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov