TNK-BP minorities withdraw BP damages claim

MOSCOW Mon Dec 3, 2012 3:53pm IST

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Minority shareholders in Anglo-Russian oil firm TNK-BP TNBP.MM are withdrawing a 100 billion rouble ($3.2 billion) damages suit against BP (BP.L) after the main stakeholders agreed last month to sell their stakes to Russia's Rosneft (ROSN.MM).

A Siberian court in July awarded the damages against the British oil major in a case brought by a group of minority shareholders in TNK-BP's listed unit TNK-BP Holding. BP appealed against the verdict.

BP lawyer Konstantin Lukoyanov said the case judge had confirmed that the minorities had applied to withdraw their suit. A hearing would be held on December 14 at which the litigation is expected to be formally dropped.

"Of course, we wouldn't object," Lukoyanov said on Monday.

The case stemmed from BP's failed attempt last year to forge a partnership with state oil major Rosneft which fell apart after it was blocked in the courts by AAR, a consortium that represents four billionaire co-owners of TNK-BP.

The feuding partners at TNK-BP have since agreed to sell the business to Rosneft for $55 billion and dropped all legal disputes as they seek to wrap up what would be Russia's largest ever takeover deal.

AAR has denied any connection to the minority lawsuit, which was brought by a group of investors led by Andrey Prokhorov. The minorities sought damages by arguing that the failed BP-Rosneft deal would have harmed TNK-BP financially by excluding it from a proposed offshore exploration alliance.

BP has repeatedly described the minority suit as absurd - a position reiterated on Monday by Lukoyanov, who added that once the case was dropped it could not be revived under Russian law.

"Their position is absolutely cynical," he said. "It shows that this case was never brought in the interests of the company (TNK-BP Holding) or its shareholders.

Lukoyanov confirmed earlier information from a source familiar with the matter that the minority shareholders had applied to the court to drop the case.

TNK-BP and lawyers for the minorities declined to comment.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Megan Davies and Hans-Juergen Peters)

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