Week in Review

April 13, 2012 4:41 pm

Ex-TNK-BP’s Barsky has lead stake in Matra

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Maxim Barsky, the Russian oil executive who stepped down from BP’s joint venture TNK-BP last October after being groomed for two years for the top job, surprised markets by emerging this week as leading investor in Aim-quoted minnow Matra Petroleum .

Many had expected Mr Barsky to take charge of Russia’s third-biggest oil producer by volume in 2011. Instead he has bought a 30 per cent stake in Matra and has become a non-executive director of the company, which before the deal commanded a modest market capitalisation of £15m.

His aim is to expand Matra into a “medium-sized independent player in the international market”, at first through expanding its existing interests in Russia that lie close to those held by TNK-BP.

Before joining TNK-BP and being groomed by BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley to take control of the troubled Russian co-venture, Mr Barsky was director-general of West Siberian Resources. There he helped turn the previously struggling group into one of Russia’s most successful independent oil companies.

He stepped down as deputy chief executive at TNK-BP following a series of protracted disputes between BP and Alfa-Access-Renova, the investment vehicle of Russian billionaires Mikhail Fridman, Viktor Vekselberg, German Khan and Len Blavatnik.

Mr Barsky is investing £4.6m in Matra, which has exploration and producing assets in the Volga-Urals area of Russia.

The question now is whether he can repeat the magic demonstrated at Western Siberian Resources. That may be his ambition, but he admitted this week that he faced a more difficult task this time.

“It will be difficult to build Matra into another West Siberian just in Russia,” he said. “There are now a lot less independent assets in Russia and the tax position is quite hard on upstream exploration.”

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