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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     13 October  2011                    

Glencore to rescue Bakrie Group

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Glencore, the world’s biggest commodities trader, is expected to sign a deal within days for a $800-$900 million loan to Indonesia’s Bakrie Group to help it refinance a $1.35 billion facility that became unexpectedly due, sources said on Thursday.

In return, Glencore will be given the right to sell more coal produced by Bakrie-controlled Bumi Plc and the loan will be backed by part of the Bakrie Group’s 47 percent stake in the coal miner, said the sources, who have knowledge of the deal.

The deal will also give Glencore an option to turn the loan into an equity stake if Bakrie cannot repay the debt, one of the sources said.

The sources declined to be identified because the talks were not public.

The sale or marketing rights could be extended to other Bakrie non-coal assets such as for zinc from Bumi Resources Minerals, one of the sources said.

Glencore, several of whose executives are in Jakarta to help close the deal, has been seen as a frontrunner and likely partner for the Bakries since news of the refinancing talks emerged last week, with analysts pointing to its relationship with the family and existing coal marketing agreements.

The deal would tighten Glencore’s grip on coal sales from Indonesia, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter. Shares in Jakarta-listed Bumi Resources, Asia’s largest thermal coal exporter, jumped as much as 5.8 percent on the news, outperforming the Jakarta index, which was up 1.5 percent.

The Indonesian group has held re-financing talks on the debt after mandatory repayment of the loan -- a one-year deal arranged by Credit Suisse in March to consolidate Bakrie family debts -- was triggered by a sharp drop in Bumi’s London shares that took the price below 850 pence last month, sources have said.

The debt issue has been weighing on the share price of Bumi Plc, a joint venture between the Bakries and financier Nat Rothschild, even though the London listing was meant to provide more transparency to investors.

“It is hard to understand debt issues if it involves the Bakrie Group -- we never fully know because not all is disclosed,” said Frederick Daniel Tanggela, a coal analyst at Jakarta-based Bahana Securities.

“Our concern is will this debt issue happen again? They have had this issue over the past few years and people just lose confidence in them.”

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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