Russian oligarch threatens legal action against UK government over North Sea oil block

Concern over future sanctions against Russia could derail plans

A Russian billionaire is threatening to sue the UK government over its plans to block the sale of 12 gasfields in the North Sea.

Mikhail Fridman has already nearly completed the deal, in which his investment company, Letter One Group, is acquiring RWE Dea – the oil and gas arm of Germany’s RWE, the Financial Times reports.

As part of the plans, a new company called L1 Energy is being created and the influential energy tycoon and former BP chief Lord Browne is to chair it.

However, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has said it will block the deal (which is due to be completed today) from going ahead.

Energy secretary Ed Davey said there were concerns about the deal and the effect it could have on UK oil and gas if sanctions against Russia were introduced in the future.

A government-issued statement said: “If the proposed acquisition were to proceed in its current form, he [Ed Davey] would be minded to require the companies to arrange for a further sale to a suitable third party.”

The move is the first time a western government has stepped in to intervene in a corporate transaction due to fears over sanctions against Russia, according to the FT.

But Letter One Group believes it has a way of dealing with possible sanctions and said eight authorities, including the EU, Germany and Ukraine had approved the deal.

In addition, Fridman could take legal action against the UK. A statement from his company read: “The UK is the only government to oppose the transaction formally.

“L1 Energy reserves all its rights regarding the Department of Energy and Climate Change decision on this issue including, if a decision is issued, to challenge it as being unlawful.”

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