MOSCOW, Sept 13 (Reuters) - A top Russian government official opposes the possible purchase by state oil major Rosneft of BP’s one-half stake in Anglo-Russian oil company TNK-BP, the Vedomosti financial daily reported on Thursday.
Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, who coordinates energy policy in the world’s largest oil producing nation, said the government had not yet discussed the details of a possible deal with Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin.
“Overall, it serves no useful purpose for any state company to expand its role in the economy,” Dvorkovich told the newspaper in an interview.
Dvorkovich, previously the top economic official in the Kremlin, took over the role of deputy prime minister responsible for energy from Sechin after Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in May.
Dvorkovich and Sechin have publicly clashed over numerous issues including privatisation, where Sechin has been seeking to consolidate energy assets under state control.
The deputy premier said Rosneft would not be able to buy a stake in TNK-BP, Russia’s third-largest oil firm, without government permission.
He also questioned how Rosneft might be able to raise the estimated $30 billion that could be required to complete a transaction.
“This purchase won’t happen without the government’s approval anyway,” Dvorkovich said. “You don’t find $30 billion lying around on the street.”
“This means we have to see how the money would be raised, how quickly it is returned in the form of TNK-BP dividends, how it would affect Rosneft’s financial situation, and whether it would bring other projects to a halt.”
BP announced in June that it would start the process of selling its 50 percent stake in Russia’s third-largest crude producer TNK-BP after years of squabbling with the AAR consortium of Soviet-born billionaires, which owns the other half of the company.
A month later Rosneft said it was in talks to acquire half of the troubled venture. Under the TNK-BP shareholders agreement outside buyers may hold talks on buying a stake, but cannot close a deal for 90 days.
Earlier this month Sechin said Rosneft had taken a time-out in talks to buy the TNK-BP stake to avoid falling foul of the shareholder pact.
Dvorkovich said the formal talks between Rosneft and the government about the deal were yet to start. “Consultations so far have been only behind the scenes,” he said.