Nat Rothschild launches a late $1.2bn bid to grab miner Bumi

Billionaire prepares offer as he turns up the heat against his rivals the Bakries

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The Independent Online

The billionaire banking scion Nat Rothschild is launching what may be a last-ditch bid to rescue his standing in the City of London by forming a consortium to bid for mining firm Bumi against his rivals the Bakrie family.

The soap opera at Bumi, which was brought to the London Stock Exchange by Mr Rothschild with the backing of one of Indonesia's most powerful families, has led to one of the more spectacular stock market rows of recent times.

Bumi shares have crashed and the fallout between the banker and his Indonesian backers has been vicious. The shares were down 90 per cent at one point.

The Bakries had planned to quit Bumi and dismantle the company by buying back the stakes it has in its two main coal mine assets, Bumi Resources and Berau Coal Energy.

News of a counter-offer by Mr Rothschild, pictured, sent the stock up nearly 14 per cent to 283p, though still markedly down on the £10 float price.

Mr Rothschild is appointing Morgan Stanley to advise him on a plan to lead a $1.2bn (£744m) proposal for the assets. He has linked with one of the Indonesian presidential candidates, Prabowo Subianto, to thwart the Bakries' $1.4bn plans to buy out Bumi.

He also held discussions with Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Prabowo's brother, a player in agriculture and tin mining. He is also chairman of the Indonesian chess federation.

Mr Rothschild quit the board as a non-executive director after the Bakries made their offer to buy out the company, saying it would not be in the interests of shareholders to accept the deal. He said at the time: "It will be a disgrace to proceed with, or even to entertain the proposal."

Mr Rothschild, who founded Bumi with the Bakrie family in 2010, has held talks with potential new investors. The plan, if it succeeds, would remove the Bakries, chairman Samin Tan and PT Recapital Asset Management as Bumi investors.

Some in the City feel Mr Rothschild needs this deal to go his way or else he may find it harder to raise money in the future. One analyst said: "Fleet Street would miss Rothschild. I suspect the City might not."

The buyout plan by the Bakries involves swapping their Bumi Plc shares for part of the 29 per cent of Bumi Resources held by the London-listed company, then buying the rest of the stake for cash, before buying Bumi Plc's 85 per cent stake in Berau.

Richard Knights, an analyst at Liberum Capital, told Bloomberg: "Anything that he puts forward would have to be better or more concrete in terms of financing than the existing offer from the Bakries."

Osborne's friend: Man in the spotlight

Nat Rothschild, son of Lord Rothschild and school friend of the Chancellor, George Osborne, helped bring the Indonesian Bakrie family and their coal mining assets to the London Stock Exchange.

His expertise in emerging markets and the Rothschild name attracted investors en masse and the company initially hoped to rank among blue chip FTSE 100 stocks.

However, shares in Bumi have slumped, reflecting the falling price of coal, and Mr Rothschild has spectacularly fallen out with co-owners the Bakrie family. Ousted as co-chairman in March, he stepped down from Bumi's board in October expressing his "great regret" over the episode.

He is now talking to Prabowo Subianto, a former general who was once married to the daughter of the late Indonesian dictator Suharto.