In January it hatched a deal with Rosneft, Russia's big, state-controlled oil company. The terms involved a share swap between the companies valued at $7.8 billion each, along with joint exploration in the promising, but challenging, Russian Arctic.
The deal was to have been completed by BP's annual meeting day. However, the group of Russian billionaires who comprise AAR, a partner with the company in TNK-BP, contended that the deal violated the terms of their venture with BP. They then filed suit in London and won an injunction that has since been upheld by an arbitration panel.
So with Thursday having come and gone without completion of the BP-Rosneft swap, is the deal kaput? Surprisingly, no. Indeed, the companies have extended their deadline until May 16.
Keep in mind that BP CEO Bob Dudley earlier served in the same capacity at TNK-BP. As the culmination of a frequently rocky relationship, he was essentially forced out by the Russian oligarchs in 2008, an experience that should have rendered him more jaundiced about his subsequent dealings with the group.
Now, with the BP and AAR relationship having been severely wounded once again, the next month clearly will bring about another significant event -- positive or negative -- for the British company. Among the possibilities:
BP could acquire AAR's interest in TNK-BP and complete its Rosneft deal. It apparently has tendered a $27 billion offer to its AAR partners, but that number is clearly more than 20% low, so it's not going anywhere. Alternatively it might offer cash in an amount sufficient to bring about a change of heart at AAR. That amount would likely have to start with a "B," and would only lead to an opportunity to search for oil and gas that might not exist in commercial quantities.
AAR almost certainly would be attracted to the prospect of TNK-BP replacing BP in a Rosneft deal. In fact, it's an offer BP says it's made, but the AAR team denies that claim. It's quite possible that the Russians are speaking the truth, since Rosneft could be expected to reject such a switch.
Easily, the worst outcome for BP would be for a compromise with AAR to remain elusive, thereby forcing Rosneft to find another partner with the technical expertise to work in the challenging arctic. Possible replacements for Dudley and his minions could include Chevron
We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named in this article.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.