“Three cheers for the Qataris,” crowed one Xstrata shareholder yesterday after the Qatar Investment Authority made a surprise demand for better terms for its stake in the mining group.

The Lazard bankers advising the QIA, which has quietly built up an 11 per cent holding in Xstrata over recent months, will spend the coming days shoring up their position at the crux of this mining mega-merger.

Fighting for a better offer on behalf of the Qataris are three of Lazard’s most senior bankers. Charlie Foreman, head of equity capital markets advisory in London, will be facing his former client across the boardroom table. During his seven years at Deutsche Bank, he was one of Xstrata’s regular advisers. He has proven his credentials under pressure by working with the UK government as it tried to stabilise the teetering banking sector in 2008.

Head of UK investment banking Nicholas Shott also has public sector experience – the media stalwart wrote a report for culture secretary Jeremy Hunt on the local television market in 2010.

Joining them is Spiro Youakim, global head of metals and mining. He has a formidable track record in the sector, with Anglo American and Arcelor Mittal among his past clients.