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Sechin and the Commanding Heights?

MOSCOW – The decision by BP and the Russian shareholders of TNK-BP to sell their stakes to Russia’s state owned Rosneft crowns a very successful year for the company – and for Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin. Before taking over TNK-BP – one of Russia’s major oil companies – Rosneft struck several multi-year investment deals. Earlier this year, Rosneft signed three agreements with ExxonMobil, Eni, and Statoil exceeding $700 billion in total – an amount that dwarfs all other recent foreign direct investment in Russia combined.

What a difference a year makes. In 2011, Rosneft agreed on a joint venture with BP, but TNK-BP’s Russian shareholders forced it to retreat from the deal. Now, Russian taxpayers will pay TNK-BP shareholders $45 billion in cash (and the rest in Rosneft shares). With this transaction, Sechin has built the largest publicly traded oil company in the world. What changed? And what implications does Rosneft’s takeover of TNK-BP have for Russian business?