Rothschild in talks to prevent the dismantling of mining company

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FINANCIER Nat Rothschild is in talks with Indonesian investors, including a contender for the country’s presidency, on a plan to counter a $1.4bn proposal by the influential Bakrie family to dismantle coal mining group Bumi, sources said yesterday.

Mr Rothschild set up Bumi with the Bakries two years ago, when the family injected Indonesian coal assets into a London investment shell created by the financier.

But their relations have since soured, sparking public confrontations, most recently over an investigation into potential financial wrongdoing in Bumi’s Indonesian assets, as coal prices tumble and the London firm’s shares slump.

Tensions culminated last month when the Bakries announced plans to unwind the venture. Mr Rothschild resigned from Bumi’s board, aiming to fight a proposal he said would not be in the interests of minority shareholders.

Sources with direct knowledge of the matter said Mr Rothschild was now in discussions with various potential partners, including former general and current presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, to thwart the Bakrie aim of regaining full control of their coal empire and dismantling London-listed Bumi.

He also held discussions with Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Prabowo’s brother, owner of the Arsari group of companies and a player in agriculture and tin mining.

The sources would not say in what capacity Prabowo, the former son-in-law of ex-Indonesian President Suharto, or his brother, were involved. “(They) are looking to find an alternative solution (for shareholders),” said one of the sources.

Another source said the plan would aim to effectively keep Bumi alive – without the Bakrie family and associated shareholders – reviving the original plan of applying UK corporate governance to promising Indonesian assets. The sources said details of the plan were still being hammered out. A spokesman for Nat Rothschild declined to comment.