Nathaniel Rothschild said a “huge protest vote” from Bumi Plc (BUMI) minority investors for his bid to oust most of the board will probably mean some directors are replaced rather than the landslide victory he had anticipated.
“Last week it would have been a landslide vote in our favor,” Rothschild, 41, said in a Bloomberg TV interview with Francine Lacqua. “There’s a very good chance we’ll get some representation on the board. It’s unlikely we’ll get none.”
The plans by the financier, locked in a battle for control with Indonesia’s Bakrie family, were dealt a blow Feb. 18 when Rosan Roeslani, an associate of the Bakries, sold shares that had been excluded from today’s vote. Rothschild, scion of a centuries-old banking dynasty, is asking investors to back his proposals to replace 12 of Bumi’s 14 directors, including Chief Executive Officer Nick Von Schirnding and Chairman Samin Tan.
The sale of a stake “is a very big event in this story,” said Rothschild, who set up the Indonesian coal venture with the Bakries in 2010 and accuses management of failing investors.
Roeslani sold about 24.2 million Bumi shares, removing the U.K. Takeover Panel’s objection that the stake could be wielded in concert with the Bakries, and increasing the amount of votes Rothschild would need to win at today’s shareholder meeting. The financier’s support among minorities is four-to-one, he said.
Bumi, which slumped 69 percent last year in London trading as both sides fought for control of the company’s coal assets, climbed 2.3 percent to 388 pence as of 12:45 p.m. in the city.
The stock surged a record 39 percent on Oct. 11 after the Bakries offered to buy back the assets and effectively dissolve the $3 billion deal with Rothschild that created the company. It also rose 10 percent last week, to a nine-month high, after they agreed to pay a $50 million deposit under separation terms.
“The separation is key,” Richard Knights, an analyst at Liberum Capital Ltd., said before the meeting. “You can’t do that under Nat’s proposal because the Bakries won’t buy it.”
Rothschild said today that he would keep pressuring Bumi’s board to recover lost value for investors should he lose.
Shareholders of Bumi, which urged a rejection of his plans, began the meeting at 11 a.m. at London’s Armoury House, home to the Honourable Artillery, Britain’s oldest army regiment.
Julian Horn-Smith, Bumi’s deputy chairman, held the chair at the meeting, telling shareholders it wasn’t appropriate for Tan to do so because of the personal nature of the dispute. Horn-Smith called for “polite” and “civil” proceedings.
Speaking from the floor, Rothschild said the protest vote he expected from the meeting would be “unprecedented” in the U.K. It was important that some common ground emerge from the meeting and that the day’s events mark a new start for the company. Rothschild said he would remain a shareholder for “as long as it takes” to get the right management in place.
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