Noble delays restructuring timeline in wake of Singapore accounting probe

SGX ticker at Shenton Way building in Singapore; taken October 2018.SGX ticker at Shenton Way building in Singapore; taken October 2018.

Troubled commodity trader Noble Group said late on Sunday that it would extend the timeline for completing its restructuring in the wake of Singapore authorities’ investigation into its accounting.

Last week, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) said in a joint statement that Noble Group is under investigation for suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements under the Securities and Futures Act.

“Due to the additional time required to fully address all concerns of the regulators and to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders continue to be protected, the company anticipates a change in the indicative timeline,” Noble said in the filing to SGX on Sunday.

“The company is in the process of gathering and collating the information requested by the authorities and is also in the process of appointing experts to assist in responding to the technical accounting issues raised by ACRA,” it said.

That included a change in the expected restructuring effective date and the start date for the trading of the New Noble shares on the Singapore Exchange that had been set for 26 and 27 November, respectively, it said.

Noble said it was “confident” that other than the investigation, the restructuring conditions would soon be satisfied and the restructuring plan could be completed by 11 December.

“The board remains of the strong view that the restructuring is in the best interests of all of the company’s stakeholders, including its creditors and shareholders,” it said, adding that its Ad Hoc Group of creditors had written to the MAS and SGX to say it remained supportive of the restructuring plan.

The joint investigation comes as the years-long drama over the troubled commodity trader had appeared to be reaching the end.

Noble has faced a gamut of a once-anonymous critic, Iceberg Research, whose allegations of accounting issues had weighed on its share price, as well as a prolonged commodity-price slump which sapped its earnings over a period of years.

The company also faced controversy over the twists and turns in its efforts to restructure into New Noble and leave behind much of its debt.

The long-running restructuring drama had appeared to be at an end on 16 November, when Noble requested its shares be suspended from trade. The shares closed at S$0.081 on that day, a far cry from their height of around S$18.14 touched in early 2011.

 

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