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TNK-BP chief in contract pledge

TNK-BP chief in contract pledge

By Russell Hotten and Adrian Blomfield in Moscow

Last Updated: 2:05am BST 22/07/2008

TNK-BP chief executive Robert Dudley, just days away from being ejected from Russia, has written to the country’s immigration department saying that he will soon provide proof of his employment contract.

Mr Dudley, at the centre of a power struggle between the British and Russian shareholders in TNK-BP, has been told that unless he has an employment contract he will have to leave the country by the end of July.

The billionaire Russian shareholders, operating under a consortium called Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR), claim Mr Dudley’s contract has not been renewed.

BP says the contract is renewed automatically, and that the UK company has taken legal advice to prove its case.

Mr Dudley wrote to the Federal Migration Service (FMS) yesterday promising to submit a valid contract “in the nearest future”, according to a copy of the letter given to the Bloomberg news agency.

Last week, Mr Dudley was given a visa extension to remain in the country for 10 days to try to sort out the mess.

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  • AAR claims that Mr Dudley runs TNK-BP, Russia’s third-largest oil company, for the benefit of BP, and not all the shareholders and that he has presided over a poorly performing company.

    BP says that the joint venture has a strong record of profitability and oil reserves. A spokesman for the FMS said yesterday: “We cannot grant a visa to Mr Dudley before he presents a valid contract.

    “The previous contract expired and we have no proof that it has been prolonged.”

    BP says that even if Mr Dudley was expelled from Russia, he would still legally be chief executive of TNK-BP.

    Over the past two months TNK-BP’s operations have all but ground to a halt after a spate of suspicious tax, labour and police inspections. BP’s 150 western staff have also experienced difficulties renewing their visas.

    The case once more raises questions about the sanctity of property rights in Russia, with many investors nervous about the ease with which the rich and powerful can use state structures to settle business disputes.

    Gordon Brown, already struggling to deal with a series of diplomatic disputes with Russia, has raised his concerns over the treatment of TNK-BP with the Kremlin on several occasions.

    At the root of the dispute is a suspected desire by Gazprom or Rosneft to acquire a controlling stake of TNK-BP.

    AAR denies it has any intention of selling its stake to either company, but some analysts believe the end-game will be when the Kremlin forces a sale.

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