BP and Russia Bury the Hatchet

Who said that the people overseeing Russia's oil interests aren't capable of getting along with energy folks in the rest of the world?

While giant natural gas producer Gazprom (OTC BB: OGZPY) continues to tussle with Ukraine, the powers that be at TNK-BP, a big and contentious partnership between BP (NYSE: BP  ) and a trio of Russian billionaires, appear to have reconciled after a year of major squabbling. That's one key reason why I believe Foolish energy investors should pay renewed attention to BP.

The joint venture, founded in 2003, sailed along nicely until last year. Then the Russian partners began pushing for the ouster of Robert Dudley, the partnership's BP-appointed CEO, among other things. Indeed, at midyear, Dudley was forced to exit Russia and run the company from an unspecified location in central Europe.

At the time, it looked as if Russian pressure might ultimately force BP to sell its partnership interests, perhaps to Gazprom, probably at a bargain-basement price. The British company would have taken a hit in doing so. The partnership represented about a quarter of BP's global production and a fifth of its reserves.

But one morning early in September, we awakened to discover that the parties astoundingly had buried their hatchets. And as last week came to a close, the deal was ultimately finalized. I won't go into the details of the settlement, because they'd bore you silly. All you need to know for now is that an equally divided board will be elected shortly, a new CEO with Russian language facility will be named, and at some point, as much as 20% of the partnership will be sold through an IPO. Beyond that, what has become Russia's third-largest oil company will continue its growing operations

BP therefore has come out far better than Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) , which was forced to sell most of its interest in a Sakhalin Island project a couple of years ago. Even ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) has had its ups and downs with its Russian hosts on Sakhalin. And we can only hope that France's Total (NYSE: TOT  ) , which also is active in Russia, remains unscathed.

The real key for Fools, however, is that BP has now overcome recent difficulties in its own CEO suite and moved past a deadly Texas refinery explosion, an Alaskan oil pipeline leak, and the Russian partnership turmoil. This company on the rise also happens to offer a more than 7% dividend yield. In short, BP is a member of Big Oil that Fools should watch very, very closely.  

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He does, however, encourage your comments or questions. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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