The Bakrie family, headed by welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie, is unlikely to go bust any time soon, as the government ponders allowing state firms to buy stakes in the clan’s companies to help avoid a possible debt default.
A failure by the family to secure immediate funding means it could risk losing the ownership of its crown jewel companies.
State enterprises minister Sofyan Djalil said the government could allow state miners PT Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam (PTBA) and PT Aneka Tambang (Antam) to acquire stakes in Bakrie unit PT Bumi Resources, the nation’s biggest coal producer.
“If they (PTBA and Antam) have the money to buy the shares and the price is good, we will let them,” Sofyan said after a meeting at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.
However, Sofyan, who served as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s campaign manager during the 2004 presidential election, denied reports the go-ahead to buy Bakrie shares was aimed at helping the group’s companies from being taken over entirely by other investors.
On Oct. 12, Bakrie’s flagship PT Bakrie & Brothers, the country’s largest publicly listed company, announced the offering of shares in its units, including a 10 percent stake in publicly listed Bumi.
The company claims the offering is aimed at helping raise some US$1.2 billion to pay all outstanding debts, some of which are not due for the next two years.
While Bakrie remains deliberately vague about the reason for the early payment, there are widespread reports the company is in dire need of cash to help prevent shares of its firms pledged as collateral to creditors from losing their value as a result of the global financial meltdown led by the credit crisis in the United States.
Bakrie & Brothers borrowed $1.43 billion in short-term loans between April and September from, among others, Oddickson Finance, JPMorgan, and India’s ICICI Bank for refinancing, funding investment and working capital.
Shares in Bakrie units were put up as collateral, including in Bumi, plantation firm PT Bakrie Sumatra Plantation and energy firm PT Energy Mega Persada, whose subsidiary Lapindo Brantas sparked the massive mudflow disaster in Sidoarjo, East Java, in 2006.
The value of the shares pledged was initially estimated at $6 billion, before plunging to $1.35 billion on Oct. 6, with creditors demanding Bakrie top up the covenant to assure the stake value remained intact, or risk being seized.
With Bakrie refusing to disclose its debt arrangements, the Indonesia Stock Exchange is still suspending trading in the shares of six Bakrie companies, blamed by Finance Minister Sri Mulyani for exacerbating the recent havoc in the stock market.
Help from the government will mean a lot for the Bakrie family, noting Aburizal’s role as a key financier of the Yudhoyono presidential campaign in 2004.
Aburizal also played a major role in putting Vice President Jusuf Kalla, also chairman of the Golkar Party, on the national radar back in the 1990s when Kalla was a relatively unknown businessman from eastern Indonesia.
While Kalla worked his way up the ladder, Aburizal was already an iconic native tycoon, locally termed pengusaha pribumi.
If Sofyan Djalil does finally move to save the Bakrie business empire, it will be the third time the family has been rescued by the government; the first was a financial bailout during the late-1997 Asian financial crisis, and the second was over the Lapindo debacle.
In response to questions over the troubles plaguing the empire, Aburizal merely said everything was actually in order.
“Everything is secure,” he said before a meeting with Yudhoyono.
Desy Nurhayati, The Jakarta Post