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Business News

Nat Rothschild vows to fight on after losing Bumi battle

Financier also promises more cash shell ventures despite troubles with mining

Nat Rothschild was defiant last night after losing his bid to overhaul Bumi, the Indonesian coal miner he co-founded, vowing to continue his fight to shake up the beleaguered company and indicating plans to create similar ventures in the future.

Mr Rothschild's attempt to oust 12 of Bumi's 14 board members was largely defeated at an extraordinary general meeting, with shareholders agreeing to remove just two senior directors – Nalinkant Rathod and Jean-Marc Mizrahi. He also succeeded in installing Sir Richard Gozney, a former British ambassador to Indonesia, on the board.

Mr Rothschild, who has a 13 per cent voting stake in Bumi, put on a brave face, declaring the result "an important moment in Bumi's history… A substantial majority of non-aligned shareholders have voted overwhelmingly for our proposals." Mr Rothschild's unsuccessful resolutions were typically defeated by a vote of about 56 per cent in favour and 43 per cent against, with a tiny proportion of abstentions. However, the resolution to put Mr Rothschild on the board was defeated by 63.11 per cent to 36.89 per cent.

Mr Rothschild pledged to remain a major shareholder of Bumi and to fight for the rights of the minority shareholders.

Bumi was created in November 2010, when Indonesia's Bakrie brothers reversed some of their coalmining assets into Mr Rothschild's London-listed cash shell. However, the co-founders quickly fell out amid allegations of financial irregularities at the two Bakrie businesses in which Bumi owns a stake – Bumi Resources and Berau Coal – where $1bn (£650m) is unaccounted for.

The Bakrie brothers welcomed the outcome of the vote, which they said paved the way for the board to proceed with a plan that would involve them exiting the business in a deal where they took the 29 per cent stake in Bumi Resources and leaving Bumi with the 85 per cent holding in Berau Coal.

The Bumi board and the Bakrie Group said they would now proceed with the separation plan as quickly as possible. Chris Fong, vice president of the Bakrie Group, said: "We hope he [Rothschild] now joins our own move to restore value at Bumi by supporting our proposal."

The Bumi board reiterated its pledge to find a new independent chairman to replace Samin Tan, who has close ties to the Bakries.

Shares in Bumi, which floated at £10 in 2010, rose 3 per cent to 391.3p.

Mr Rothschild said he did not regret creating the company, saying: "You must not regret the past or wish to shut the door on it." Furthermore, he held out the very real prospect he would seek to set up another business along similar lines to Bumi in the future.

Mr Rothschild has already repeated the Bumi model once, creating the Kurdistan-focused oil producer Genel Energy run by former BP chief executive Tony Hayward by reversing a Turkish company into a London-listed cash shell he set up. That venture has lost about a quarter of its value since it was created in 2011.

Asked if he was considering launching a third cash shell, Mr Rothschild replied: "not at the moment". But might he in the future? "Definitely… A lot of investors applaud the approach we've taken. Broadly speaking, there's a huge amount of support for what we've done."