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Noble Group says to push on with restructuring despite regulatory probe

Noble Group says to push on with restructuring despite regulatory probe

The company logo of Noble Group is displayed at its office in Hong Kong on Jan 22, 2016. (File photo: Reuters/Bobby Yip)

SINGAPORE: Embattled commodity trader Noble Group on Wednesday (Nov 21) said it would continue with its plans to restructure, despite noting an investigation by Singapore authorities into suspected disclosure breaches by the firm.

Noble said in a statement that it and its unit Noble Resources International (NRI) had received correspondences from Singaporean authorities regarding their investigation into suspected false and misleading statements made by the companies.

The firm said it would cooperate fully with the authorities in their investigation, which was launched just days before the Singapore-listed company was to complete its US$3.5 billion debt restructuring deal to prevent its collapse.

Noble Group added that its proposed restructuring was in the best interests of all stakeholders, including creditors and shareholders, and that it will "continue to work towards implementing its proposed restructuring within the previously disclosed timelines".

The company's shares were suspended from trading from Monday due to the restructuring.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the city-state's central bank, and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) said they were jointly investigating Noble for suspected violations of securities and company laws.

The probe also covers potential non-compliance with accounting standards by NRI, a fully-owned Singapore-based subsidiary of Noble.

"CAD and MAS have directed Noble Group Ltd and NRI to produce documents relating to the preparation of Noble Group's financial statements," the authorities said.

They said this follows a thorough review of other relevant information, including information referred to authorities by the Singapore Exchange's regulatory arm and other third parties.

Mr Mak Yuen Teen, an associate professor of accounting at the National University of Singapore, said he did not expect the investigation by authorities to impact the restructuring.

"There's going to be a new entity with a largely new board, and the investigations will be focusing on the previous board and management," he said.

Noble, once Asia's top commodity trader, has seen its market value all but wiped out from US$6 billion in February 2015 after its accounting was questioned by Iceberg Research. 

To rescue itself, Noble has shrunk its business by selling billions of dollars of assets, taking hefty writedowns and cutting hundreds of jobs, while defending its accounting. 

Source: Reuters/na


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