Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman is actively looking to sell a group of North Sea gas fields over which he has been fighting the British government, The Financial Times reports.
Fridman’s $29 billion LetterOne Group plans to hire advisers—most likely from Morgan Stanley—to search for buyers.
Fridman’s $5.30 billion acquisition of Dea, German RWE’s oil and gas division, lit a pulsating red bulb in the offices of the UK government, which saw the takeover as a tricky way to circumvent the EU sanctions against Russia.
Fridman, whose fortune is valued at $17.6 billion dollars, made through TNK-BP, a Russian gas company that has since been swallowed by Rosneft, is seen as one of President Vladimir Putin’s close circle of tycoons.
Putin placed these oligarchs in a position to get rich, and expects them to use their money to support his power. Most notably, Putin’s oligarchs financed his $50 billion Olympic Games in Sochi. Now, with the ruble sinking and the Russian economy following close behind, these men are being called on once again.
Last month, UK energy secretary Ed Davey said he was “minded” to demand the sale of the gas fields to a third party. LetterOne reacted first with threats of a lawsuit against unfair interference, arguing that a trust-style arrangement through a Netherlands-based body would shield access to those fields in case of new sanctions.
Now, the FT reports, rather than risking a costly court battle, Fridman is ready to give away the North Sea fields, which account for as much as 5 percent of the UK gas output.