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Rothschild loses battle for Bumi's board

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LONDON, Feb 21

February 22 2013, 07:26AM

British financier Nathaniel Rothschild has lost his battle for control of Bumi Plc, with plans by Indonesia's powerful Bakrie family to pull out of the London-listed coal joint venture to proceed.

Rothschild's motions to take control of the board on Thursday were rejected by shareholders at an extraordinary meeting.

The board said it would now move on the plan by the politically-connected Bakries to divorce from Bumi Plc by selling their 23.8 per cent stake in the group, in return for 10.3 per cent of the highly prized Indonesia-based Bumi Resources, the crown jewel of the joint venture.

If agreed, the Bakries would buy the remaining 18.9 per cent stake of Bumi Resources from Bumi for $US278 million ($A272.66 million).

Calling the shareholder vote "an endorsement of the Board's strategy," the company said it "will now prioritise ... the execution of the separation from the Bakrie Group and PT Bumi Resources Tbk and will put this transaction to shareholders for approval as soon as possible".

Bumi Plc was co-founded by Rothschild and the Bakries in a $US3 billion ($A2.94 billion) deal in 2011 in a bid to become one of the biggest global players in the coal industry and leverage Indonesian coal firms, including Bumi Resources, to London.

The Jakarta-listed Bumi Resources is the country's biggest thermal coal miner and is the heartbeat of the Bakrie family's business empire.

The Bakrie family and Rothschild began to tussle over control of the joint venture soon after it was founded, however.

The rift peaked last year when Bumi ordered an independent investigation into allegations concerning potential financial irregularities in Bumi Resources, which was followed by the resignations of Rotshchild and one of the Bakrie brothers from the board.

The Bakries blamed Rothschild over the battle that caused Bumi's share price collapse last year.