British Government Balks At Giving Comfort to Russian Oil Tycoon

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Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman is trying to improve his fortunes in the face of sanctions by forming an oil and gas concern, although the British government is hesitant to give its blessing on purchases of assets, including those in the North Sea, as reported by the New York Times.  Fridman is asking for a so-called comfort letter for permission, but Edward Davey, Britain’s minister for energy and climate change, is hesitant to give his stamp of approval. Lacking the “comfort letter” Fridman’s agreement to acquire RWE, a German utility, for $6.5 billion could fall apart.

Even though Mikhail Fridman, despite his nationality, does not represent the Russian government itself, Davey is still balking because of the implications of the deal. Fridman got together with German Khan following their sale of TNK-BP, the Russian division of BP, the Russian company Rosneft, to invest in oil and gas assets after generating $14 billion from the sale. The German government eventually approved the deal after dragging its feet, but Mr. Davey is still delaying. While the company could continue without the British assets, those in the North Sea are valuable enough to make this delay a major obstacle.

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