July 2, 2012 / 11:41 AM / 5 years ago

RLPC-TNK-BP eyes $500 mln syndicated loan-bankers

LONDON, July 2 (Reuters) - TNK-BP, Russia's third largest oil company and 50 percent-owned by British oil group BP , has sent requests for a $500 million syndicated loan to international lenders, bankers close to the deal said.

The deal, which will go towards general corporate purposes, comes at a time when TNK-BP's ownership is in question.

BP, which bought its stake in TNK-BP in 2003 for $8 billion to team up with Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR), said on June 1 it had received multiple offers to sell its holding, amid flaring shareholder conflict.

"Banks considering this loan will have to take a credit view. Whatever happens to the ownership of the company, it will still be performing. Then, it will be about pricing and I think TNK-BP except to achieve an aggressive level," one European banker close to the borrower said.

A second European banker said banks will be comfortable with the deal, which is expected to carry a three-year maturity, as long as their investments are tightly protected.

"It will be a case of documentation, not principle."

TNK-BP declined to comment.

TNK-BP last tapped the loan market for a $1.5 billion syndicated deal last August which carried a 130 basis points (bps) margin over LIBOR.

Bankers said such pricing levels were increasingly unsustainable for central and eastern European (CEE) borrowers, with European lenders facing tightened liquidity and eagle-eyed credit committees amid the euro zone debt crisis.

Against that, syndicated loan deal volumes across CEE in 2012 have fallen to their lowest levels since 2009, according to Thomson Reuters LPC data, which is forcing lenders who want to remain active to become increasingly competitive.

Mikhail Fridman, a Soviet-born billionaire who is a partner of BP in TNK-BP, said on June 25 no talks have been held with the British company over a possible sale of its stake.

Sources close to AAR have said the consortium would be willing to buy out BP's interest for $25 billion as the partners have been unable to iron out differences over many issues, such as TNK-BP's strategy and foreign expansion.

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