UPDATE 2-Bumi Resources talks to Indonesia group on coal stake sale-sources

Tue Oct 9, 2012 8:22am GMT
 

* Deal aimed at paying down some of Bumi's $3.9 bln debt

* Deal comes amid concern on the Bumi's ability to raise cash

* Bankers pitching to separate Bumi Plc and Bakries-sources

* Bumi Plc board set to meet Oct 11 in Singapore

By Janeman Latul

JAKARTA, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Indonesia's Bumi Resources , facing a probe of its finances by London-listed affiliate Bumi Plc, is in talks with buyers led by the Sampoerna group to sell a stake in a coal miner for around $200 million, sources said on Tuesday.

Bumi Resources, the crown jewel of the billionaire Indonesian Bakrie family, had previously confirmed it was in talks to sell a 50 percent stake in PT Fajar Bumi Sakti. The unit expects to produce 1 million tonnes of coal this year, a fraction of Bumi Resource's 75 million tonnes annual output.

Sources now say the potential buyer is a consortium led by the Sampoerna group, one of Indonesia's biggest conglomerates, and they are discussing a deal of around $200 million.

The sale is part of a plan by Bumi Resources to pay down some of its $3.9 billion debt, which includes $1.5 billion owed to sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp.

Shares in Bakrie Group firms have been under heavy selling pressure this year because of debt concerns and the plan to sell assets is the latest effort to shore up confidence by showing the group's ability to raise cash.

Neither Sampoerna nor Bumi Resources confirmed the talks.

"If and when there is closure on any asset monetisation effort we will then make an announcement," said Bumi Resources director Dileep Srivastava.

A. Putranto, an executive at Sampoerna Strategic, the investment holding firm of the group, said it was open to expansion in mining and other areas.

"We have not made any commitment with any company or group of companies on investment in coal mining industry," Putranto said by email.

If completed, the deal would be the first investment by the Sampoerna family, which made its fortune on clove cigarettes, in coal mining.

Sampoerna sold its tobacco business to Philip Morris of the United States in 2005 for more than $5 billion and it has used the proceeds to invest in businesses from global online casinos to palm oil and banking.

"It will be positive when the asset sale actually happens, otherwise people will remain suspicious. They have been talking about the need to reduce high cost debt for about 12 months now and we haven't seen a great deal of progress," said a Singapore-based debt trader.

LONDON PROBE

Bumi Plc, which owns 29 percent of the Indonesian miner, launched a probe in September into potential financial irregularities of over $500 million at its affiliates in the Southeast Asian country.

Bumi Plc was created in a $3 billion deal in 2010 between the Bakrie Group and financier Nat Rothschild, aimed at making it one of the world's biggest coal miners.

The investigation has added to strains between the top shareholders. The Bakrie Group and Indonesian tycoon Samin Tan control 47.6 percent of Bumi Plc and Rothschild has about 12 percent.

Rothschild and the Bakrie group clashed in 2011, leading to a shake-up in the Bumi Plc board this year, which left Tan as chairman. Rothschild was relegated to non-executive director from co-chairman.

Tan helped the Bakries stave off default by buying a 23.8 percent stake from them in Bumi Plc for $1 billion in January. However, sources have said he is "furious" with the Bakries now because the investment has slumped more than 80 percent in value since he bought into the company.

Investment banks have suggested ways to resolve the shareholders' disputes, including a split between Bumi Plc and the Bakrie Group, sources said.

The Bumi Plc board meets in Singapore on Thursday but is unlikely to discuss such a radical plan, sources said.

"The Bakries are hoping Samin Tan will be on their side this week as they are aiming to fight off the accusation from the probe, although Tan's position is still a mystery to them," said one of the sources in Jakarta.

The Bakries lost one director from the board when Ari Hudaya, former Bumi Plc CEO and the current Bumi Resources CEO, abruptly quit when the probe into irregularities was launched.

The Bumi Plc board has 17 members, including nine independent directors, according to the company's website.

Bumi Resources 2017 bonds are trading at 82.5/83.5, below 92/93 before the probe commenced. Bumi Resources shares were down about 1.5 percent on Tuesday but have fallen 20 percent since the investigation was announced by Bumi Plc and have plunged 69 percent this year.

Bumi Plc shares have dropped 16 percent since announcing the probe.

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