Ridicule as a Legal Technique

BP has put on hold a hi-tech project worth $8 million with the fund Skolkovo headed by TNK-BP co-owner Viktor Vekselberg. The company says it fears that it may be accused of breaching a shareholder agreement with its Russian venture TNK-BP.

Earlier this year, the AAR consortium, which represents BP's Russian partners in TNK-BP, stopped a $16 billion share swap and Arctic shelf development deal between the British oil major and Russia's leviathan Rosneft saying that the deal broke TNK-BP's shareholder agreement under which all projects in Russia must be carried through TNK-BP.

BP was expected to finance a three-year research project “Heat transfer and catalysis” on a parity basis with the Skolkovo fund, but at the last moment refused to sign the deal. The company referred to the same shareholder agreement with TNK-BP, an instrument previously used by the joint venture's Russian shareholders to block BP's deal with Rosneft.

Whether the R&D project contradicts the TNK-BP shareholder agreement is a big question. What seems likely is that BP, flooded with legal suits following its failure to strike the deal with Rosneft, wants to hold up the whole situation and Viktor Vekselberg personally to ridicule and win the attention of the country leaders, who see the Skolkovo fund as an illustration of Russia’s modernization ambitions.