Oil, Telecom Dealings With Russia? 'Relax and Enjoy It'

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Includes: BP, RNSDF, TELNY
by: Craig Pirrong

In what has to be considered a marriage made in hell, Norwegian telecom firm Telenor (OTCPK:TELNY) has agreed with perpetual litigation adversary Alfa Group agreed to merge their Russian and Ukrainian telecom operations and list the new company in the United States.

This has to be considered a surrender by Telenor, inasmuch as (a) the deal was done on terms very similar to what Alfa had proposed some time back, and (b) Telenor was losing battle after battle in a Kafkaesque ordeal in the Russian legal system (where it was facing having to pay 9 figure fines on a farcical 10 figure judgments).

The interesting thing to see about this is what happens with the Fairmex lawsuit that put Telenor in such dire straits. Fairmex and Alfa have asserted all along that they were completely independent of one another. The Alfa-Telenor deal is conditional on the Fairmex suit going away. If Fairmex and Alfa are truly independent, and Fairmex has a legitimate claim, why would Fairmex do that? Just how it goes away would be very interesting to see–I say “would” because it is highly unlikely that we’ll actually observe the real process by which Fairmex returns to its previous obscurity.

In other news from the extortion beat:

Less than a week following the remarks of Don Vladimir, Renault (OTC:RNSDF) agrees to throw good money down the rathole that is the Russian auto business, and fund Avtovaz:

Russia’s government said Renault SA agreed to help rescue automaker OAO AvtoVAZ as it scrambles to meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s deadline for a plan to save the country’s debt-laden car industry.

Renault said it’s “prepared to invest in the company’s growth,” First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said on state television today after meeting with Renault executives. Renault owns 25 percent of Russia’s largest automaker.

BP is resigned to letting oligarchs run TNK-BP“:

Oil major BP (BP) is resigned to leaving management control of its key Russian venture TNK-BP in the hands of its oligarch partners to avoid a new corporate war, sources close to the company said.

It is most likely that current interim Chief Executive Mikhail Fridman [of Alfa Group--go figure!], one of the key Russian co-owners, will retain his position and would keep his ally, German Khan, TNK-BP’s co-owner and executive director, to run the day-to-day operations into the new year, the sources said.

The sources told Reuters that BP had no chance in the foreseeable future to promote its protege to CEO, leaving the day-to-day decisions at the firm, which generates a quarter of BP’s worldwide oil output, to the oligarchs.

It sounds like Telenor, Renault, and BP have all decided it best to follow Bobby Knight’s 1988 advice. Good luck with that.