* Struggling coal miner fails to set date for shareholder vote on split
* Deal would increase Bakrie family partner Samin Tan’s stake to 47 pct
* Reports first-half underlying loss of $45 million vs year-ago profit
* Names new CFO, chief mining officer; share price up 2.5 percent
By Clara Ferreira-Marques
LONDON, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Struggling coal miner Bumi Plc said there was no alternative to a planned split with its founding Bakrie family, urging shareholders to back a deal that will hand another Indonesian investor control of almost half the stock.
The Indonesia-focused miner has faced headwinds virtually since its inception in 2010, plagued by tumbling thermal coal prices that drove it to report an underlying first-half loss on Thursday, as well as feuding shareholders and allegations of misuse of funds and phone hacking.
The firm failed on Thursday to set a date for a long-awaited shareholder vote on the separation, a cornerstone of its restructuring plan.
It said instead that documents would be sent to Britain’s regulator “within days” and to investors after that, paving the way for a vote on the company’s future in September.
Bumi blamed the delay on the complexity of the deal, negotiations over escrow arrangements for payment and a simultaneous split between the Bakries and their current Indonesian partner Samin Tan, who would become the single largest investor in Bumi by buying the Bakrie stake.
There will also be a new “relationship agreement” with Tan on how the company will be run.
The current board of Bumi is seeking to turn around the company’s fortunes by splitting with the Bakries, who co-founded it with financier Nat Rothschild, and focusing on majority-owned Indonesian subsidiary Berau Coal.
The Bakries have agreed to a deal that will see them buy back a 29 percent stake in Indonesian unit Bumi Resources , currently held by Bumi.
As part of the same deal they will sell their interest in the parent company to their partner, major Bumi shareholder and outgoing chairman Tan.
An escrow agreement, however, will be critical to the deal, as the often asset-rich but cash-poor Bakries will be forced to effectively guarantee cash from the sale to Tan will be used for the purchase of the Bumi Resources stake.
An agreement will be put in place before the shareholder vote that will approve or sink the deal, Chief Executive Nick von Schirnding told reporters.
‘NOT REARRANGING THE DECK CHAIRS’
“There is no plan B. This is the best deal we have on the table,” von Schirnding said.
“This is absolutely not a rearranging of the deck chairs. This is recalibrating and relaunching this company, from a very flawed structure put in place when it was set up.”
Created as one of the world’s largest thermal coal producers, Bumi said it had not yet been able to recover cash lost at Berau, despite a deal with a former executive to claw back $173 million.
Bumi swung to an underlying first-half loss of $45 million from a $7 million profit a year ago, as a 20 percent drop in thermal coal prices offset increased production and the impact of easing costs.
Output rose 19 percent to 11.5 million tonnes, putting the company on track to produce 23 million tonnes for the full year and closer to a “near term” target of 30 million.
Production costs have already dropped 10 percent as Bumi, like other miners across the industry slashes costs from contractors to fuel, and it sees further reductions ahead.
Bumi named a new chief financial officer, oil and gas industry veteran Paul Fenby, who most recently worked for Petrofac in Malaysia. Former Peabody Energy executive Keith Downham will join as chief mining officer.
Bumi’s stock was up 2.5 percent at 216 pence at 1008 GMT, valuing the company more than 390 million pounds ($605 million).