British energy giant BP on Friday said it was ready to offload its stake in troubled Russian joint venture TNK-BP after the shock resignation of the venture's chief executive earlier this week.
"BP announced today that it has received unsolicited indications of interest regarding the potential acquisition of its shareholding in TNK-BP," it said in a statement, adding that BP intended "to pursue a potential sale".
Monday's resignation of Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman as TNK-BP head threw one of BP's most profitable overseas operations into turmoil.
Fridman warned on Thursday that the lucrative nine-year alliance was paralysed and needed one of two main partners to take full charge.
BP's 50 percent stake has a market value of about $18 billion (14.5 billion euros).
Fridman said tensions within Russia's third-largest oil producer had been building since BP's failed bid last year to form an Arctic alliance with the Russian state-owned company Rosneft.
He said that the four Soviet-born billionaires who own half of TNK-BP through a consortium known as Alfa Acess Renova (AAR) have been trying to get disputes settled by the appointment of independent directors to the board.
But Fridman accused BP of dragging its feet on those nominees out of fear that the new board members would side with the Russian tycoons.
BP said in its statement on Friday: "In light of these unsolicited approaches and consistent with its commitment to maximising shareholder value... BP has notified Alfa Access Renova of its intention to pursue a potential sale.
"There can be no guarantee that any transaction will take place."
BP's announcement comes as a surprise as it had expressed immense interest in saving the venture because it accounts for a quarter of the British group's overall production and billions of dollars in annual dividends.
Major analysts treated Fridman's boardroom walkout as a sign of serious internal discord that could eventually hit the company's profits.
Fitch Ratings warned that TNK-BP was suffering from a stalemate among its board of directors and management that "could eventually impinge on the company's business profile and credit ratings".
Fridman owns 25 percent of TNK-BP through his Alfa Group conglomerate and is its second-largest shareholder after BP.