Just seven years ago, Noble Group was a $11 billion-plus Asian commodity powerhouse, trading everything from soybeans to oil. As it readies its latest earnings report, it’s worth barely $80 million, rooted among Singapore’s penny stocks.
Due later on Tuesday, Noble’s first-quarter results will shed light on whether it can stem huge losses provoked by a lack of trade financing and market calls that went sour – while whittling down a debt mountain. They also precede shareholder meetings and legal rulings that will decide whether it survives.
Amid accusations of false accounting levelled in 2015, and a legal spat this year, a long slide in investor confidence has seen most of Noble’s market value wiped out. Noble has defended its accounting and is now trying to clinch a last-ditch deal with creditors and shareholders from which – if it succeeds – it will emerge a transformed company.
Noble is seeking approval to halve its $3.4 billion debt in return for handing over 70 percent of equity to senior creditors, mostly a group of hedge funds which calls itself the “Ad Hoc Group”. Under that plan, its headquarters will be in London, not Asia, no longer controlled by founder Richard Elman.
“Noble’s restructuring…remains critical to averting bankruptcy,” Singapore’s KGI Securities said ahead of the Noble results.
The deal would leave existing shareholders with just 15 percent equity in a company that has seen its share price fall from a peak of S$17.6 Singapore dollar ($13.18) in 2011 to below S$0.1.
Despite its woes, Noble has so far defied talk of its demise. But to keep going, Noble needs a majority of its shareholders to approve the restructuring – a vote on the proposal is expected in June.
Scared by the prospect of total loss and lack of any alternate plan, the proposal could get enough support, company sources say.
Founder Elman, still Noble’s biggest shareholder with a stake of nearly 18 percent, would be given a board seat in the new firm.
Noble chairman Paul Brough, a restructuring and liquidation expert, has urged shareholders to support the deal, threatening a failure would result in insolvency and bankruptcy.
But leading the resistance is Abu Dhabi-based Goldilocks Investment Co. Ltd, which holds 8.1 percent in Noble. Goldilocks has filed complaints and lawsuits against the restructuring plans, arguing they protect creditors at the expense of shareholders.
Goldilocks is Noble’s third-biggest shareholder after Elman and China Investment Corp, which has a 9.5 percent stake....MORE
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
From Trading Titan to Penny Stock: Noble Group Faces Crunch as Creditors, Investors Circle