Minority TNK-BP investor urges Rosneft to back big dividend

Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:25pm BST

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* Rosneft chief executive holds meeting with investors

* TNK-BP minority shareholders say want a fair deal

* Veteran investor Mobius hopes for big dividend

By Megan Davies and Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW, April 18 (Reuters) - Veteran emerging markets investor Mark Mobius urged Russian oil company Rosneft on Thursday to issue "a nice fat dividend" to ensure minority shareholders in recently acquired TNK-BP are treated fairly.

Mobius, whose emerging markets group has shares in TNK-BP, made his comments one day after a meeting between Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin and investors at which the state-owned company said the possibility of buying out minority investors - who hold around 5 percent of TNK-BP Holding - was not discussed.

Shares in TNK-BP rose after the meeting but they are still about 40 percent below this year's peak price in January, before Rosneft completed its $55 billion purchase of the bulk of the crude oil producer.

Sources close to the minority shareholders told Reuters they think Rosneft should buy them out for $2.8 billion, based on what Rosneft paid for its majority stake in TNK-BP.

"TNK is the big issue. We think the assets of TNK-BP are much greater than the price reflects and we hope that it is fairly treated so minority shareholders get a fair treatment," Mobius, executive chairman of fund manager Franklin Templeton's emerging markets group, said during a conference in Moscow.

Mobius, whose group has $1.2 billion invested in Russian equities, said Rosneft should pay out all the cash it has in TNK-BP.

"So a nice fat dividend to all shareholders would be nice, including (to) Rosneft," he said. "I hope (for an outcome) as soon as possible. The longer it goes on the worse it gets."

The treatment of the TNK-BP minority shareholders was a litmus test for conducting business in Russia, he added.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, speaking at the same conference, said that Rosneft intended to resolve the problem, without elaborating.

Rosneft bought the Anglo-Russian oil producer from BP , which ended up with an almost 20-percent share of Rosneft as a part of the deal, as well as a consortium of four Soviet-born tycoons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hailed the deal but it was met with scepticism by some investors and non-state firms wary of the Kremlin's growing presence in business.

Sechin, a Putin ally, has said Rosneft has no obligations to TNK-BP minority shareholders and the company will not offer any buyout.

"The issue of a share buyout from TNK-BP minority shareholders was not discussed during the meeting," a Rosneft spokeswoman said of Sechin's discussion with investors.

BofA Merrill Lynch analysts said Rosneft was considering "reasonable exit options for TNK-BP minorities" and that Sechin seemed open to a dialogue. But a source familiar with details of the meeting said Sechin had not sent any clear signal to the investors.

"I wouldn't read too much into this. There was nothing concrete," the source said.

Russia's Alfa bank said in a note to clients that there was "still no clarity on Rosneft's position towards TNK-BP Holding minorities." (Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Potter)