Rothschild 'mulls counter-bid in Bumi battle'

British financier Nathaniel Rothschild is mulling a bid for Bumi Plc coal assets to counter an offer by Indonesia's powerful Bakrie family, and has approached one of their rivals, a report said Saturday.

The formation of Bumi Plc by the Bakries and Rothschild brought Indonesian coal assets to the London Stock Exchange, but the tie-up was beset by boardroom squabbles.

Bumi's board is currently considering a $1.2-billion proposal by the Bakries that would see the family sever ties with the London-listed mining group, an offer that prompted the resignation of Rothschild from the board last month.

In a new twist to a feud being carefully watched by foreign investors, Rothschild has approached one of the Bakries' most high-profile rivals, Prabowo Subianto, to join him in a bid, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Subianto has been approached several times since September but has rejected the moves, the paper said, citing people familiar with the plans.

Subianto, who was a general under former Indonesian dictator Suharto, is considered a front-runner for presidential elections in 2014, where he is likely to face Aburizal Bakrie, the patriarch of the Bakrie family.

A spokesman for Rothschild, the scion of a European banking dynasty, declined to confirm he was trying to form a rival bid but said he was in talks "with a number of parties", the report said.

He did no respond to attempts by AFP to contact him. Subianto could not be immediately contacted.

Bumi Plc's shares plunged as the battle heated up, but closed up almost 14 percent in London Friday after speculation about Rothschild's counter-bid emerged.

Last month's proposal by the Bakries would see the family give up their 23.8 percent stake in Bumi and pay about $1.2 billion for its mines.

The proposal, which would return control of some of Indonesia's most productive mines to the Bakries but leave Bumi Plc with cash and no assets, prompted Rothschild to resign from Bumi's board.

He said it would be a "disgrace" if Bumi accepted the Bakrie's offer before the completion of a probe he has backed into alleged financial irregularities at Bumi Resources, a holding company related to Bumi Plc and controlled by the Bakries.

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