Cablegate: Tnk-Bp Internal Fight Goes Public; Both Sides
DE RUEHMO #1519 1510740
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 300740Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8302
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 001519
STATE FOR EUR/RUS; NSC FOR MWARLICK
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2018
TAGS: ECON EINV ETRD PREL PGOV RS
SUBJECT: TNK-BP INTERNAL FIGHT GOES PUBLIC; BOTH SIDES
REF: MOSCOW 1294 AND PREVIOUS Classified By: CDA Daniel A. Russell for Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).
1.(SBU) TNK-BP President, AmCit Robert Dudley, gave an interview to the Russian business daily Vedomosti, which was published in their Monday May 26 edition. In the interview, Dudley aired BP's differences with its Russian partners, including over international projects. The most sensational aspect of the interview was his accusation of "managerial violations" by some in the company that had deliberately understated to the GOR the number of visas needed for the company's expats, putting their status and the company's operations in jeopardy.
2.(C) In a May 28 meeting with ECMIN, AmCit Shawn McCormack, TNK-BP's Vice President for International Relations (strictly protect) said that BP had made a decision to forcefully respond to the continuing efforts of their Russian partners, especially Alfa Group billionaires Mikeil Fridman, German Khan, and Petr Aven, to undermine BP's position in the partnership (reftels). BP had decided to go forward with a PR campaign, including the Vedomosti interview and a series of press briefings on background that would further expose their partner's bad faith.
3.(C) McCormack said that there was no truth to the rumor that the Russian partners, collectively known as the AAR group (after the initials of their companies: Alfa, Access, and Renova) had asked BP Chairman Tony Hayward for Dudley to resign. However, BP expected AAR to formally request Dudley's resignation at TNK-BP's May 29 Board Meeting in Cyprus. BP would refuse and given the 50/50 split in the company AAR would be unable to force Dudley out.
5.(C) McCormack said the bigger picture remained unchanged: Gazprom still wanted to buy out the Russian half of TNK-BP and pursue a global partnership with BP. The AAR billionaires were using their wealth and connections within the GOR to fight off Gazprom on one front while trying to seize greater control of the company from BP on another. He expected the "war" to continue and even intensify in the coming weeks.
6.(C) Update: McCormack called late in the evening May 29 to report that the TNK-BP Board meeting had broken down in acrimony following AAR's efforts to remove Dudley, which BP refused, and BP's efforts to force out Khan, which AAR had rejected. McCormack said BP expected the attacks on their executives at TNK-BP, especially Dudley, to worsen in the aftermath. RUSSELL
0 05/30/2008 3221 ECON,EINV,ETRD,PREL,PGOV,RS TNK-BP INTERNAL FIGHT GOES PUBLIC; BOTH SIDES RAISE STAKES 156028 BP hits back 164519 8/1/2008 12:18 08MOSCOW2237 Embassy Moscow CONFIDENTIAL VZCZCXRO1244PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSRDE RUEHMO #2237/01 2141218ZNY CCCCC ZZHP 011218Z AUG 08FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOWTO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9271INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITYRUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITYRUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITYRHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITYRHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITYRUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002237 SIPDIS DEPT FOR EUR/RUS, FOR EEB/ESC/IEC GALLOGLY AND WRIGHT EUR/CARC, SCA (GALLAGHER, SUMAR) DOE FOR FREDRIKSEN, HEGBORG, EKIMOFF DOC FOR 4231/IEP/EUR/JBROUGHER E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/08/2018 TAGS: ECON EINV ETRD PREL PGOV RS
------------------- BP/AAR Negotiations -------------------
2.(C) Summers, a UK citizen (please protect), said that BP's dispute with AAR head reached the "end of the beginning" and that BP CEO Tony Hayward had met in Prague with Mikheil Fridman the day before, July 30, to negotiate a "cease-fire." (N.B. The meeting has since been reported in the press.) Summers, however, likened it to an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire in which Khan would play the role of Hamas, ready with some provocation or incident that would restart hostilities. Moreover, of all the partners, Khan was the least leveraged and therefore had the least to lose if the dispute dragged on and the company's performance suffered and payouts were delayed. He also had the least exposure outside Russia were BP to push the button and start seizing the AAR assets through arbitration.
3.(C) Summers said a longer-term resolution of the dispute would depend on reaching agreement in four areas: picking a new CEO, agreeing on governance issues, agreeing on the level and nature of BP support to TNK-BP, and on "liquidity." He said Dudley was unlikely to return. However, Summers felt Fridman had overplayed his hand, and was now getting pressure from the GOR to resolve the dispute and was therefore unlikely to play hardball on the identity of the new CEO.
4.(C) Summers said the second issue, corporate governance, was central to control of the company and would be the most difficult to resolve. The structure of the Board, the presence of independent directors, the authorities of the CEO, and structure of the subsidiary companies were the keys to BP protecting its investment in the company. He added that the opaque nature of Russia's legal system made this even more essential from BP's point of view and that any foreign investor in Russia should have in its hands at a minimum the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the head of internal auditing.
5.(C) On BP's level of support, Summers said the questions revolved around whether BP would provide technical skills to TNK-BP in the form of secondees and if so how many and under what terms. He noted that AAR and the Russian Government knew full well that the company could not be run successfully without foreign employees. First, there were simply not enough skilled Russian petroleum engineers and second the Russian engineers' skills were not to world standards. What the foreign personnel had brought to TNK-BP and other Russian oil companies were not only more sophisticated drilling techniques but also an integrated approach to the work that maximized production. As an aside, Summers said he was very pessimistic that Russia would ever be able to get its production over 10 million barrels a day and predicted instead a steady decline in production as the current fields were depleted and few if any new fields were brought on line.
6.(C) Summers said liquidity was really AAR's issue as their ultimate goal was to take value out of the company. Decisions would how much to pay out, including in the form of dividends, and how much to invest back into the company. Summers added that while the AAR partners overall goal was clear enough ) make as much money as they could ) they had no real strategy for achieving that and instead approached everything tactically, and that the preferred tactics of the Alfa partners in particular were to play rough. They had felt pressured from the government to sell at a discount, disrespected by a BP that had been weakened by its transition MOSCOW 00002237 002 OF 002 to a new CEO, and had decided to make themselves difficult until they were accommodated.
7.(C) If the negotiations were to fail, Summers said BP would react decisively. He said BP had not reacted fast enough or aggressively enough as the dispute had gathered steam but was "angry and fully awake" now and ready to go to arbitration if necessary.
----------------------------- German Khan and the Godfather -----------------------------
8.(C) Summers said he had a complicated and sometimes difficult relationship with Khan, though it was not as difficult as Dudley's relationship had been. It was complicated because although they were technically on the same level in the company, Khan as a part owner out-ranked him. However, at the same time, Khan knew very little about the oil business, knew it, and therefore deferred to Summers on running the company. With Dudley, he added, part of Khan's anger was because Dudley was the boss and had thwarted several of Khan's pet projects, such as investing in "rogue" states.
9.(C) Summers added that Khan was a very difficult person to work with. xxxxxxxxxxxx They had flown out to Khan's hunting lodge, which Summers said was like a Four Seasons hotel in the middle of nowhere. At dinner that evening, Khan had told a stunned Summers that The Godfather was his favorite movie, that he watched it every few months, and that he considered it a "manual for life." Khan had also come to dinner armed with a chrome-plated pistol.
10.(C) Summers said that after the trip he had gotten a copy of The Godfather and now watched it on a regular basis himself so as to better understand Khan and anticipate his tactics. He added that Khan's aggressive but relatively simple business style was typically Russian where multi-million dollar deals are made in smoke-filled rooms in a matter of a few hours and only later are turned over to the accountants to see if they make sense. It was not a style that meshed well with BP and that culture clash was in part responsible for the acrimony of the dispute, as Khan had never felt BP treated him with sufficient respect.
11.(C) Summers added that Khan had gone along with Deputy Prime Minister Sechin on his trip to Cuba this week. Khan had been very nervous about the trip, since he would not be the headliner but instead would be surrounded by other powerful Russian oligarchs, including Sechin and Gazprom's Alexander Medvedev. Summers said nothing was likely to come out of the trip. Cuba's potential deposits were small and the geology was complicated. Even Khan was not really interested and Summers doubted any other Russian oil company would be interested either.
----------- Visa Update -----------
12.(C) TNK-BP's VP for International Relations, Amcit Shawn McCormick, updated us the morning of August 1 on the visa situation within the company. According to McCormick, work visas have been trickling in all week for the foreign employees, including a batch of 18 that morning. Although the company is still waiting for 23 additional visas, McCormick said that all of foreign employees in "key/critical" positions, with the exception of Dudley, have now received visas and work permits (this includes McCormick). RUBIN