BP warns of sanctions pain

The oil giant has warned that sanctions will hit its operations in Russia.

The US and the EU joined forces this week to hammer out the harshest sanctions against Russia since the Cold War. So far, the EU has merely targeted a few individuals. Now it is set to take action against Russian banks, the oil (but not gas) industry and the military.

There has been a clampdown on future arms sales, while major state-owned banks will not be able to tap European capital markets, and high-tech oil exports are no longer available to the Russian oil sector.

The US has matched many of the European measures and has now placed restrictions on almost all the biggest banks with state ownership of at least 50%. Russia has already started to retaliate, banning Polish fruit and vegetables.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Companies are beginning to fret about the impact of sanctions and counter-sanctions, with BP saying they would threaten its joint venture with oil giant Rosneft and Renault warning its sales could slump.

What the commentators said

Instead, he has destabilised his neighbour and continues to stoke the violence in eastern Ukraine, accompanies by a "propaganda operation worthy of a previous era in Soviet history".

We could be in for a long stand-off, as Wirtschaftswoche pointed out. The worry is that Putin sees his mission as restoring Russia's self-esteem, which was gravely damaged by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and if that means a nasty squeeze on the economy, so be it. But his Ukraine campaign has also boxed him into a corner.

Having hyped up the populace with relentless propaganda, any climb-down or concession, no matter how small, would be perceived as a major defeat. So we are likely to see plenty more firms lining up to warn that their business is going to suffer.

In BP's case, though, the fuss seems overblown, said Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph. BP ended up paying £15bn for its stake in Rosneft last year, and has already pocketed almost £1bn in dividends. That follows its $8bn investment in a previous joint venture, which yielded $15bn in dividends.

Even if all its Russian assets are confiscated, which is highly unlikely, it will have done well in Russia. In the US, by contrast, its provisions for the 2010 spill have hit $43bn. "Investors are worrying about the wrong continent."

Andrew Van Sickle

Andrew is the editor of MoneyWeek magazine. He grew up in Vienna and studied at the University of St Andrews, where he gained a first-class MA in geography & international relations.

After graduating he began to contribute to the foreign page of The Week and soon afterwards joined MoneyWeek at its inception in October 2000. He helped Merryn Somerset Webb establish it as Britain’s best-selling financial magazine, contributing to every section of the publication and specialising in macroeconomics and stockmarkets, before going part-time.

His freelance projects have included a 2009 relaunch of The Pharma Letter, where he covered corporate news and political developments in the German pharmaceuticals market for two years, and a multiyear stint as deputy editor of the Barclays account at Redwood, a marketing agency.

Andrew has been editing MoneyWeek since 2018, and continues to specialise in investment and news in German-speaking countries owing to his fluent command of the language.