BP had previously deemed the joint venture a core asset and has benefited from billions of pounds of dividends from the joint venture since it was set up with a group of Russian oil oligarchs in 2003, known as Alfa Access Renova (AAR).
But the firm issued a statement yesterday disclosing “unsolicited indications of interest” regarding the potential acquisition of its stake in TNK-BP.
“In light of these unsolicited approaches and consistent with its commitment to maximising shareholder value, and its obligations under the shareholder agreement, BP has notified AAR of its intention to pursue a potential sale,” the company said.
Analysts speculated that the unidentified potential bidders for the holding might include Russian state-backed players such as Gazprom and Rosneft.
On Monday, one of the AAR billionaires, Mikhail Fridman, quit as chief executive of TNK-BP, blaming a breakdown in relations with BP.
The British group invested almost $8 billion (£5.2bn) in cash, shares and assets to form the joint venture, which accounts for about 30 per cent of its oil and gas production.
However, relationships between the partners have soured. In 2008, BP chief executive Bob Dudley, then chief executive of the joint venture, fled Russia amid what he described as sustained harassment by AAR.
BP offered to buy out AAR for about $32bn last year, sources said at the time, following a boardroom row over BP’s abortive move to seal an Arctic exploration deal with Rosneft.
The deal collapsed amid legal opposition from AAR, which cited the TNK-BP agreement that forces BP to use the latter as its vehicle for expansion in Russia.