The UK government has ordered Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman to sell all of his North Sea gas fields or face having the licenses revoked.
The order is the latest blow in an ongoing battle between Fridman and regulators following his purchase of an oil and gas production unit from German utility firm RWE Dea early this year.
The Energy Ministry said that Luxembourg-based LetterONE, an investment group controlled by Fridman, has six months to sell all of its UK North Sea gas assets or the licenses will be revoked.
“This decision was taken after a thorough review of all relevant information as well as obtaining cross-Government views,” Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said.
LetterONE has not commented on the order.
An unnamed source close to the matter told Reuters the UK government will play a role in finding a buyer.
Fridman has been squaring off with UK regulators since October after the DECC refused to write a letter of comfort approving the RWE deal, citing the country’s sanctions against Russia.
In March, just as the acquisition was closing, the DECC tried to block parts of the sale and said LetterOne may need to dispose of $1.12 billion worth of UK assets.
LetterOne has said it will seek out a judicial review if it is forced to sell the assets and it will exercise its “right to seek compensation for any damage caused to the value of our investment in RWE DEA.”
The production unit owns interests in about 190 oil and gas licenses or concessions in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
LetterOne closed its purchase of the unit for $5.6 billion in early March.