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A conflict between British and Russian owners of oil firm TNK-BP
A conflict between British and Russian owners of oil firm TNK-BP has led to Russian shareholders seeking to oust the company's American CEO and replace him with tycoon Viktor Vekselberg, a business daily said.

Kommersant said CEO Robert Dudley had decided to give an interview to another business daily, Vedomosti, recounting conflicts within the company, after his job came under threat.

"Two sources close to TNK-BP shareholders say that in mid-May BP chief Tony Hayward met with two Russian shareholders - Viktor Vekselberg and [Alfa Group founder] Mikhail Fridman. According to one of the sources, the Russian shareholders said they were dissatisfied with Robert Dudley, and proposed replacing him with Viktor Vekselberg," Kommersant said.

The Russian-British oil venture has come under intense pressure from the Russian authorities this year. In March the Federal Security Service searched the company's headquarters and the Moscow office of BP, and carried out new searches at BP last week. In March a TNK-BP employee was arrested on suspicion of industrial espionage.

In his interview with Vedomosti, Dudley said that earlier this month paperwork for 150 foreign staffers at TNK-BP had been deliberately submitted incorrectly, resulting in a drop in the company's quota for foreign workers. This was done by "managers acting in the interests of one shareholder, whose goal was to substantially reduce the presence of international specialists in the company," he said.

Dudley also spoke of a dispute over Russian shareholders' plans for international expansion, and BP's belief that TNK-BP should focus on Russia. He said the company's goal is to keep oil production as high as possible, and that any change in management could lead to a production drop.

Kommersant cited a BP spokesman as saying Russian shareholders in TNK-BP - Alfa Group, Access Industries and Renova - want to expand to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Venezuela, where TNK-BP has a competitive advantage. BP has resisted the idea, as well as plans to take part in projects in high-risk countries including Iraq, Uganda, Syria and Libya.


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