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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?

    此外,在组建合资企业之前,英国石油公司委托相关机构对秋明石油公司至少进行了三次背景调查。调查报道对秋明石油公司的管理层及其所有者俄罗斯AAR财团(Access-Renova and Alfa Group)的描述令人担忧。2001年的一份报告指出,AAR财团与俄罗斯政府关系密切,是该国最有影响力的金融工业集团之一。在英国石油公司公司1999年出具的一份内部报告中,目前担任秋明英国石油公司执行董事的AAR财团创始人之一戈尔曼•罕被形容为“炸药”;英国石油公司一位高管在2002年撰写的一封电子邮件中更是把他说成一位“臭名昭著”的人物。

    但秋明石油公司在俄罗斯的权势也使得该公司成为一个不可抗拒的合作伙伴。英国石油公司内部的一份报告(同样出自1999年)显示,秋明石油公司正在迫使英国石油公司在Chernogorneft公司问题上达成某种妥协。这份报告说,一位秋明石油公司高层成员建议“英国石油公司阿莫科- TNK应该收购Chernogorneft公司,并将其当作一个独立的加盟公司来运作。”2002年,Norex公司就Yugraneft油田问题对秋明石油公司提起诉讼,英国石油公司高层刻意拉开了跟Norex公司的距离。“虽然我们的历史跟Norex公司遭遇的事件交织在一起,但我们早就与其分道扬镳,”英国石油公司官员萨姆•贝内特在一份标注日期为2002年2月27日的电子邮件中这样写道。贝内特曾经在Sidanco公司工作过。“我们的正式回应是,这件事跟我们毫无关系。”

    最终,英国石油公司抱着尽量往好处想的态度,还是决定与秋明石油公司合作。2003年2月份,英国石油公司宣布双方将成立一家各持50%股份的合资企业(其中一条规定这家公司将吸收Sidanco公司的资产),并表示将为这家合资企业注资65亿美元。据英国石油公司内部文件显示,这份协议还包括这样一项条款:英国石油公司将不承担秋明石油公司与Norex公司纠纷有可能引发的任何损失、索赔或其他任何性质的要求。

    英国石油公司时任CEO布朗勋爵声称,这份协议是“一个重大的战略步骤,英国石油公司将由此进入一个石油和天然气储量丰富、拥有巨大增长潜力的国家。”布朗接着说:“英国石油公司早在5年前购买Sidanco公司10%股份的时候,就已进入俄罗斯。我们最初经历了一段异常艰难的时日……而且学到了许多在俄罗斯做生意的知识。”

    券商奥本海默(Oppenheimer)分析师法德尔•盖特确定无疑的是,英国石油公司与秋明石油公司组建合资企业时,该公司就明白自己是在自找麻烦。盖特说,他曾经亲眼目睹ARR财团创始人之一米哈伊尔•弗里德曼带着4名携带冲锋枪的保镖参加一个签约会议。“这是我见到过的最荒唐的场景,”他说。“你见过投资人手持冲锋枪参加会议吗?”

    BP also commissioned at least three background checks into TNK prior to forming the joint venture. The results: worrisome descriptions of TNK's management and owners, Access-Renova and Alfa Group (AAR). A 2001 report noted that Alfa had close ties with the Russian government and was one of the most influential financial-industrial groups in the country. Alfa Group co-founder German Khan, who is currently the executive director of TNK-BP, was described as "explosive" in a 1999 internal BP report and "notorious" in an email written by a BP executive in 2002.

    But TNK's power within Russia also made the company an extremely compelling partner. According to a BP report, also from 1999, TNK was pressuring BP to reach some sort of compromise over the Chernogorneft matter. The report says that a high level TNK executive suggested "that BP Amoco - TNK should buy and operate Chernogorneft as a separate alliance company." BP officials distanced themselves from Norex in 2002, when Norex sued TNK over Yugraneft. "While our history is intertwined with the events that befell Norex, we long ago parted company on the road to where we find ourselves to-day," wrote BP official Sam Bennett, in an email dated February 27, 2002. Bennett had worked at Sidanco. "Our official response should be that this is nothing to do with us."

    In the end, BP decided to partner with TNK and hope for the best. In February 2003, BP announced the 50-50 joint venture (which would absorb, among other things, Sidanco's assets), and said that it would put $6.5 billion into the partnership. (The deal also included a provision indemnifying BP from any losses, claims or demands of any nature that might arise from TNK's dispute with Norex, according to an internal BP document.)

    Lord Browne, then CEO of BP, called the deal "a major strategic step into a country with massive oil and gas reserves and immense potential for future growth." Brown went on to say: "BP entered Russia five years ago when we bought 10% of Sidanco. We had a tough time initially… and learned a great deal about doing business in Russia."

    Oppenheimer analyst Fadel Gheit has no doubt that BP knew that it was courting trouble when it formed the joint venture with TNK. Gheit says that he saw Alpha co-founder Mikhail Friedman arrive at a meeting for the deal with four bodyguards carrying machine guns. "It was the most ridiculous scene that I've ever witnessed," he says. "Investment meetings with people carrying machine guns?"

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