AAR files new suit against BP in bid for $10-bln compensation

AAR consortium, a BP partner in its TNK-BP Russian joint venture, has filed suit at a Stockholm tribunal to demand hearings on a breach by BP of TNK-BP’s shareholder agreement, Kommersant business daily quoted an AAR official as saying on Monday.

If the tribunal rules in AAR’s favor, it can go to court to demand a $10-billion compensation from BP, the paper said.

“BP has broken the shareholder agreement with AAR which presupposed participation of TNK-BP in a large investment project and a share swap,” Kommersant quoted a source close to AAR as saying. “As a result of the violation, TNK-BP incurred serious losses.”

BP and AAR, which represents four billionaires of Russian origin, has been litigating since early this year, when BP announced it had struck a $16-billion deal with Rosneft oil major to swap shares and explore the Russian Arctic together. AAR says the deal broke TNK-BP’s 2008 shareholder agreement under which partners had to offer all energy projects to TNK-BP first.

AAR then went to the Stockholm tribunal, which froze the deal and ordered BP to develop the project together with TNK-BP, but Rosneft said it did not see AAR as a partner.

BP, which pinned hopes of replenishing its reserves on the Rosneft deal after the Gulf of Mexico disaster, said it would defend itself in all courts.

The source close to AAR said that British law, under which the joint venture operates, states that only the company which suffered direct losses, namely TNK-BP, can demand compensation. TNK-BP can only decide to ask for compensation if the majority of its directors voted for it.

“If the tribunal says BP has violated the shareholder agreement, it will most likely be taken into account by independent directors who will decide whether to file a suit,” the source said.

Last week, BP filed a suit at the Stockholm tribunal against Renova, part of AAR, for over AAR’s failure to offer TNK-BP energy projects it runs in Russia and Ukraine first. BP said Renova’s breach of the agreement preceded that of BP.

Renova says TNK-BP’s board considered the projects but made no decision.

The issue of compensation payments was likely to be considered in the Higher Court of London, the source said.

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