Fired up over coal deal

Mr Widjaja has scored a coup by securing a deal to buy British financier Nathaniel Rothschild's majority stake in a coal venture.
Mr Widjaja has scored a coup by securing a deal to buy British financier Nathaniel Rothschild's majority stake in a coal venture.

As the newly crowned president director of Golden Energy and Resources, a subsidiary of the Sinar Mas conglomerate, Mr Fuganto Widjaja is leading the charge to wrest back control of Indonesian assets in a troubled venture.

The 34-year-old is on the verge of achieving the goal, after British financier Nathaniel Rothschild announced he would pull out of a four-year battle over a coal investment in Berau, East Kalimantan.

His tie-up with Indonesia's Bakrie family had turned sour. Early last month, Mr Rothschild said he would sell his stake in Asia Resource Minerals to Asia Coal Energy Ventures, backed by Sinar Mas.

Mr Widjaja's grandfather Eka Tjipta Widjaja, 91, founded a palm oil and mining empire. The family's company, Golden-Agri Resources, is the world's second-largest palm oil producer.

 

Where past challengers failed to win a majority stake in the coal venture, Mr Widjaja, who was educated at Cambridge and Cornell, had been confident and proven he was no pushover.

"There is no Plan B," he replied when asked about back-up plans.

Indonesian media had painted the battle as one aimed at restoring the investment in a mining venture back into Indonesian hands.

"I don't really look at this as a tussle for the sake of it," he told The Straits Times on the sidelines of a recent press briefing. "I look at it as a business deal and doing what's good for Indonesia."

He began his career as a research analyst with UBS investment bank in Singapore dealing with distressed and high-yield debts.

He told reporters that Sinar Mas' persistence in securing the deal was driven by a chance to support a government target to boost electricity supply to 35,000 megawatts within five years.

"We believe Indonesia needs investment in this sector, and to support this, we need a supply of coal … and this Berau coal (venture) is big," he said.

Mr Widjaja, who plays basketball and guitar, told The Straits Times that a multi-generational family business has a larger purpose than simply monetary gain.

"It's about stewardship and responsibility of guiding a business to provide jobs, investment and value-added products to the country and globally," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2015, with the headline 'Fired up over coal deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe