BP: ''We stay out of politics''

The group’s CEO makes ''no apology'' for working in Russia

British-based energy group BP will continue its Russian business within the sanctions, according to the company's CEO Bob Dudley. BP has worked in Russia for many years: in 2003, it started a venture named TNK-BP in partnership with Russian AAR Consortium. Later, the group sold its stake in the Moscow-based venture to become a major shareholder in Rosneft.

BP got a good relationship in Russia and is going to stay within the sanctions, says The Times citing the company's CEO Bob Dudley. ''We have a very strong partnership with Rosneft, we have for years. We stay out of politics,'' he said at the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators conference in London.

Dudley also doubted if the American sanctions against Russia were constructive and said that they were ''handed out like train tickets''. ''Commerce builds bridges between countries,'' considers the businessman. ''There must be activity between countries and I don't apologise for BP working in Russia. We've got a good relationship there and we are going to stay within the sanctions, but I think it's doing something good as well.''

BP has been operating in Russia since 1990. In 1997, the group acquired a stake in Russian oil company Sidanco, which later became part of TNK-BP, a joint venture between the British oil major and a group of Russian businesspeople. In 2013, BP sold its interest in TNK-BP and got a 19,75% stake in Rosneft instead. Last year, the Russian oil producer accounted for more than 13% of BP's underlying profits and almost a third of its production.

Vladimir Putin meets with heads of BP and Rosneft, March 2013. Photo: kremlin.ru

The sanctions against Rosneft and its chief executive Igor Sechin imposed by the United States in 2014 forced BP ''to give up opportunities in Russia'', said Dudley. These sanctions were less wide-ranging than the latest ones, so BP has stood by its shareholding in Rosneft but had to postpone plans to develop oil and gas deposits in the Russian Arctic. A spokesperson for the company said that Mr Dudley's comments might ''also refer to undisclosed opportunities which could potentially have been considered'' in case that the sanctions were not in place. ''It's a dangerous world right now. We have to all be vigilant and companies need to be responsive if something changes. We'll always work within the sanctions but it makes things difficult.''

Bob Dudley became BP's group chief executive in 2010. In 2003-2008, he served as president and chief executive of TNK-BP but left Russia in June 2008 due to a dispute with the venture's Russian stakeholders. Asked what advice he would give to his younger self, he said: ''Stay away from Russia,'' but then added: ''That's a joke.''

By Anna Litvina

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