BP won a small victory against minority investors in TNK-BP, its Russian joint venture, when a Siberian court ruled that the investors could not have more time to gather more backing to pursue a $3.5bn claim against the UK oil group.

The court denied the investors more time to boost the number of shareholders backing the suit up to the 1 per cent threshold required by law.

The shareholders pressing the suit represent only 0.00009 per cent of TNK-BP’s shares, according to Konstantin Lukoyanov, a lawyer representing BP.

The suit claims that BP directors on the TNK-BP board, Peter Charow and Richard Sloan, damaged the interests of TNK-BP by blocking the venture’s chances of participating in an alliance that BP had planned with Rosneft, the Russian state oil group.

The court’s decision “means the plaintiffs practically have no right to file the suit”, Mr Lukoyanov said.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Dmitry Chepurenko, said his clients would again seek more time to include new shareholders that he said had belatedly sought to back the suit when the main hearing for the case is held on November 10.

BP is still facing a separate suit for $4.9bn in damages from the same shareholders who are suing the UK oil group and its Russian subsidiary BP Russian Investment Limited over its failed bid for the strategic alliance with Rosneft. In this case, there is no requirement for shareholders to have gathered more than 1 per cent of TNK-BP’s shares, Mr Lukoyanov said.

A further preliminary hearing into this separate case is scheduled for Thursday this week. The plaintiffs led by Andrei Prokhorov, who owns a 0.0000106 per cent stake in TNK-BP, last month nearly doubled their claim for damages to $4.9bn in a case that has raised the pressure on BP’s operations in Russia and led to their Moscow offices being raided.

The shareholders claim BP damaged the oil venture by blocking its chances of participating in the proposed strategic alliance for Arctic exploration instead of BP.

BP says the claims are “absurd” and “groundless” and is bidding to have the case dismissed. Rosneft had consistently said it would not offer the partnership deal to TNK-BP anyway because it lacked the expertise BP had in offshore development.

AAR, the oligarch-backed group that is the other major shareholder in TNK-BP denies any connection to the minority shareholders’ suits.

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