Bumi shareholders set for February battle against Nat Rothschild

Company has urged shareholders to vote against all the resolutions proposed by Rothschild, who want to replace much of the current board with his own directors

Mining group Bumi has set a date for its showdown with financier Nat Rothschild, who has called a shareholder vote to press for a boardroom clearout.

Bumi is to hold the general meeting of shareholders on 21 February – in the suitably martial setting of the Honourable Artillery Company in London.

The company has urged shareholders to vote against all the resolutions proposed by Rothschild through his vehicle NR Investments.

The financier, who founded Bumi in 2010 with Indonesia’s Bakrie family, wants to replace 12 of the 14 current board members with his own slate of directors, installing himself as executive director and Tory MP Jonathan Djanogly as chairman of a new corporate governance and ethics committee.

The only Bumi directors he is not seeking to remove, Sir Graham Hearne and Steven Shapiro, will resign if his resolutions are passed, Bumi said.

The company believes Rothschild’s plan would lead to “stalemate, continued shareholder disputes and further value destruction”.

It does not think Rothschild’s board can successfully separate Bumi from the Bakrie group and dispose of its 29% stake in the Indonesian coal operation Bumi Resources.

In response, Rothschild questioned the credentials of new Bumi chief executive Nick von Schirnding into question.

“Nick is a good man, we hired him as a PR man,” he told Bloomberg TV. “He couldn’t be less qualified to be CEO of a global mining company.

“All we have tried to do is give shareholders an alternative.”

He declined to predict the outcome of next month’s vote. “These are highly sophisticated investors who can look at what’s on offer and make the choices,” he said.

Von Schirnding defended Bumi’s strategy, telling reporters: “The longer we prolong the in-fighting the less value will remain for other shareholders.”

Rothschild and the Bakrie family have been at loggerheads for more than a year. Their dispute deepened last September when an investigation into alleged financial dishonestly at Bumi was launched. Rothschild resigned from the company’s board in October after the Bakries offered to buy back the Indonesian mines they had originally sold to Bumi when they two sides teamed up.

The affair took a further twist this month when a report claimed that the Bumi chairman’s laptop had been hacked, while last week an independent investigation said it could not substantiate allegations of financial impropriety at the business, although the full report was not released.

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