Rothschild Bank Wades Into Indonesian Deal Row

The investment bank founded by the venerable Rothschild dynasty is wading in to a bitter City row, in which the billionaire financier Nat Rothschild is a key player.

I understand that Rothschild has been appointed to advise the independent directors of Bumi, an Indonesian coal-mining venture, on an offer from the south-east Asian country's Bakrie family.

The appointment effectively puts Mr Rothschild and the bank of the same name on varying sides of the proposed deal - a rare situation that will surprise many in the City.

Rothschild's recruitment was rubber-stamped in the last 24 hours by Julian Horn-Smith, Bumi's senior independent director. It comes amid a bitter and protracted row between the Bakries and Mr Rothschild over governance at the company.

The importance of Mr Rothschild's involvement in Bumi and the current dispute lies in the fact that he effectively founded the company by persuading the Bakries to inject their coal assets into a cash shell listed by the financier in London in 2010.

It was not the only such venture founded by Mr Rothschild: another saw him buy a sizeable oil business in Kurdistan in partnership with Tony Hayward, the former chief executive of BP.

Other executives have also brought vehicles like this one to the London market, promising investors the chance to access new opportunities to deploy their cash, and giving companies the chance to tap the City's liquid pool of capital.

However, the share prices of these cash shells have largely performed dismally for outside investors, while at the same time handsomely rewarding those involved in their establishment.

Mr Rothschild is now being asked by the Bakries to surrender bonus shares currently worth approximately £40m because the deal to which they were tied is now being unwound.

The role of Rothschild, the investment bank, will be to provide a fairness opinion to judge whether the independent board members should accept the offer from the Bakries.

Bumi and Rothschild declined to comment.