Rothschild under pressure to hand back Bumi shares

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The Independent Online

The City veteran Sir Julian Horn-Smith has called on the financier Nat Rothschild to surrender his shares in the London-listed miner Bumi, condemning them as a "reward for failure".

Mr Rothschild, pictured, is battling to oust the Indonesian Bakrie family and their supporters from the board of the company, which the financier brought to the market in 2010 when Indonesian coal mining assets were reversed into his cash shell Vallar.

Mr Rothschild received 16.1 million shares in return for completing the deal but relations collapsed in spectacular fashion amid clashes over corporate governance, and he was deposed as co-chairman last year.

He hit back, saying: "Contrary to what is asserted by the company, I am not 'in the money' on my Bumi investment. I am, in fact, about £27m underwater."

The shares have fallen 70 per cent since the company floated in 2010 on a mix of board rows, falling coal prices and allegations of financial irregularity, dealing a severe blow to Mr Rothschild's standing in the City. The financier, who has a 12 per cent stake in the company, wants 12 of the current 14 directors ousted and has called an extraordinary general meeting for 21 February.

The Bakries have already called on him to give up his shares. Sir Julian, a veteran of the FTSE 100 giants Vodafone and Lloyds, and one of Mr Rothschild's targets, compared the shares to rewards for failure in the banking industry.

He said: "I really don't know what Nat is going to do next. The board believes it is unjust that Nat should be able to continue to own and vote these shares which he received as the result of a flawed transaction. It is wrong for failure to be rewarded and this bonus should be clawed back."

The Bakries are planning to unwind their interests in Bumi under a deal that involves buying back the holding company's 29 per cent stake in the Indonesian miner Bumi Resources. But they warned they would not go ahead if Mr Rothschild's proposals were accepted, potentially triggering a dispute that could take years to resolve.

Mr Rothschild said yesterday that the board's proposals would not achieve the exit of the Bakries and their supporters, and pledged to "implement best-practice corporate governance throughout the organisation".