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商业 - 能源

英国石油铤而走险,赴俄淘金终尝苦果

Katie Benner和Alex Konrad 2011年11月10日

英国石油公司在其同意成为秋明石油公司的合作伙伴之前,究竟对这家俄罗斯石油公司了解多少?

    英国石油公司(BP)与俄罗斯石油企业秋明石油公司(TNK)一个历时7年的合作项目为这个英国石油巨头带来了滚滚利润,但它在俄罗斯面临的种种问题也同样引人关注。恰恰在英国石油公司从秋明英国石油公司赚得数十亿美元(仅2011年头9个月,该公司就获得了高达20亿美元的利润分红)的时候,英国石油公司高层却纷纷逃离俄罗斯,该公司驻俄办事处已经遭遇了两次突然搜查,秋明石油公司还阻止英国石油公司与俄罗斯国有石油公司Rosneft之间的业务合作。英国石油似乎成了这家强大的俄罗斯公司的牺牲品——秋明石油公司正在篡夺一家公司的控制权,后者原本有望与前者进行的平等。

    但10月底,一些秘密文件因一场正在持续的法律纠纷而浮出水面。文件显示,甚至在英国石油决定与秋明石油公司进行合作之前,该公司高层就发现这是一家无情且不诚实的俄罗斯公司,为了获得利润丰厚的能源资产的控制权,它可以不择手段。

    这些文件包括英国石油公司内部的电子邮件、公司报告、美国大使馆的电报,甚至还有英国前首相托尼•布莱尔的信件。它们是加拿大Norex Petroleum石油公司发掘出来的。10年前,Norex公司第一次向联邦法庭起诉秋明石油公司所有者,俄罗斯财团AAR。Norex公司声称秋明石油公司盗取了一块价值不菲的油田。因秋明英国石油公司现在拥有上述油田的所有权,英国石油最终也被卷入了这场法律纠纷之中。一位联邦法官驳回了此案,声称这起案件不在其管辖权之内。上个月,Norex公司向纽约最高法院(New York Supreme Court)提交了一份备忘录,反对一项动议,该动议旨在驳回该公司最新提出的诉讼。本文所引用的所有电邮、备忘录和报告均出自Norex公司上月提交的文件。

    当被要求就Norex公司最近提交的文件发表评论时,英国石油公司一位女发言人以书面的形式回应道:“Norex公司的指控所涉及的行为,均发生在秋明英国石油公司组建之前,跟英国石油公司没有任何关系。”秋明石油公司的辩护律师斯科特•赫什曼声称:“联邦法院已多次驳回了Norex公司的索赔请求以及他们提交的所谓证据。这起案件已于去年结案,秋明英国石油公司最终胜诉,Norex公司的请求被驳回。”

    无论到底谁是获胜的一方,这些新发现的文件把英国石油公司描述为一家玩世不恭,将利润置于审慎原则之上的公司。“2003年,英国石油公司决定跟‘魔鬼做交易’……以保护其在俄罗斯的利益,”Norex公司亚历克斯•鲁特桑格在一份声明中如是说。一些公司治理团体感到,Norex公司发现的这些文件理应引发投资者的忧虑。“这似乎是英国石油公司存心冒险,最终自食其果的最新例证,”公司治理评级机构GMI公司研究主管金佰利•格莱德曼说。“无论是在深水平行线钻探平台(Deepwater Horizon),还是在俄罗斯,这家公司都做了尽职调查,但最终还是铤而走险。”

巧取豪夺的油田

    上世纪90年代,英国石油公司第一次见识到秋明石油公司的行事风格。当时,秋明石油公司和Norex公司正在争夺一块利润丰厚、名为 Yugraneft的油田。Yugraneft油田归Norex公司和Chernogorneft公司所有,后者是俄罗斯石油公司Sidanco的子公司。英国石油公司后来购买了Sidanco公司10%的股权,从而也获得了这块油田的部分权益。

    BP's problems in Russia have garnered as much attention as the gushing profits the company has made from an eight-year-old partnership with Russian oil firm TNK. Even as BP has raked in billions from TNK-BP -- $2 billion in dividends in the first nine months of 2011 alone – top BP employees have fled Russia, BP's Russian offices have been raided twice, and TNK has blocked BP from doing business with the Russian energy company Rosneft. BP, it seems, has been a victim of TNK, a powerful company that is usurping control of what was to be a partnership of equals.

    But documents, which surfaced at the end of October as part of an ongoing legal dispute, suggest that BP executives saw TNK as a ruthless and dishonest company that would stop at nothing to seize control of lucrative energy assets, even before BP decided to partner with the Russian company.

    The documents – including internal BP emails, BP reports, US Embassy cables, and even correspondence from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – were found in discovery by an oil company based in Canada called Norex Petroleum. Norex first sued TNK's owners, AAR, in federal court a decade ago for allegedly stealing a valuable oil field. BP was eventually included in the legal dispute, since TNK-BP now owns the oil field in question. A federal judge dismissed the case, saying that it was outside her jurisdiction. Last month Norex filed a memorandum opposing a motion to dismiss a new lawsuit in New York Supreme Court. All emails, memos, and reports cited in this story were filed by Norex last month.

    When asked to discuss Norex's recent filing, a BP spokesman wrote: "The allegations from Norex involve conduct that pre-dates the formation of TNK-BP and had nothing to do with BP." Scott Hershman, a lawyer for the TNK defendants, said: "The federal courts have rejected Norex's claims and their supposed evidence multiple times in a case that was finally resolved last year in TNK-BP's favor with the dismissal of Norex's claims."

    No matter who wins the case, the documents found in discovery paint a picture of BP as a cynical company that put profits ahead of prudence. "BP decided to make a 'deal with the devil' in 2003… to protect its interests in Russia," Alex Rotzang, chairman of Norex, asserts in a statement. Some corporate governance groups feel that the documents found by Norex should worry investors. "This seems like the latest example of BP taking a calculated risk that goes wrong," says Kimberly Gladman, director of research at GMI, a corporate governance ratings firm. "Whether Deepwater Horizon or Russia, the company does due diligence, but gambles anyway."

A stolen oil field

    BP got its first glimpse of TNK-style justice in the 1990s, when TNK and Norex fought for control of a lucrative oil field called Yugraneft. Yugraneft was owned by Norex and Chernogorneft, a subsidiary of the Russian oil company Sidanco. BP later bought 10% of Sidanco, which also gave it a stake in the oil field.

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