* Businessman asks court to freeze Pukuafu’s 17.8 pct stake
* Suit could hold up Panigoro group’s bid to control Newmont unit
By Eveline Danubrata and Yuddy Cahya
JAKARTA, April 12 (Reuters) - An Indonesian businessman has filed a request to a Jakarta court to put on hold any deal that would involve transferring ownership of a nearly 18 percent stake held by a local company in Newmont Mining Corp’s Indonesian operations.
Gustaaf Merukh, who owns a stake in the local company PT Pukuafu Indah, is suing other shareholders in Pukuafu, including his own relatives, according to court documents dated Feb. 5 seen by Reuters and an interview with his spokesman.
Merukh says these shareholders faked his consent to use Pukuafu’s 17.8 percent stake in Newmont’s local unit, PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara, as collateral to get a $600 million loan in 2012 from the U.S. parent, Choky Simanjuntak, head of Merukh’s legal and public relations team, told Reuters by phone.
The request could hamper the effort of another Indonesian group - which includes prominent businessman Arifin Panigoro - to buy a controlling stake in Newmont Nusa Tenggara, operator of Indonesia’s second-biggest copper and gold mine.
Merukh has asked the Jakarta court to prevent any transaction involving Pukuafu’s stake before he receives compensation for having his rights “eliminated”, among other claims, according to the court documents.
“We would like to advise investors who are interested in (Newmont Nusa Tenggara) shares to hold themselves back until this court process is resolved,” Simanjuntak said.
The court has not made a decision yet, Simanjuntak said.
Panigoro, a founder of Jakarta-listed oil and gas firm PT Medco Energi Tbk, said his group’s deal to get control of Newmont’s local unit was expected to be announced last week, but it did not materialize.
Industry insiders have said that deal could be worth $2 billion.
Newmont did not provide an immediate comment. Calls to Pukuafu’s office were answered by operators who said the company’s executives were not available.
Newmont Nusa Tenggara’s stakeholders include New York-listed Newmont Mining, Japan’s Sumitomo Corp, and Jakarta-listed Bumi Resources Minerals, controlled by the family-owned conglomerate Bakrie Group. (Reporting by Eveline Danubrata, Yuddy Cahya and Wilda Asmarini in JAKARTA; Additional reporting by Nicole Mordant in VANCOUVER; Editing by Tom Hogue)