Troubled commodity trader Noble Group said on Tuesday that it would seek the appointment of a court-appointed officer in Bermuda to implement its restructuring plan despite Singapore authorities’ decision to disallow transferring its listing status to New Noble, its post-restructuring entity.
“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, and has taken steps so that the restructuring may be implemented save for the transfer of the listing,” Noble said in an SGX filing on Tuesday.
“Existing shareholders of the company will continue to be allocated a 20 percent interest in New Noble,” it said.
Noble reiterated that if it can’t complete its restructuring, the company would be forced into a full liquidation process, resulting in no recovery for shareholders or holders of the perpetual capital securities, as well as “materially lesser recoveries” for its creditors.
Noble said it would apply to the Bermudan court for a hearing on 14 December for the appointment, and subject to whether the court order is made, the restructuring effective date would be 18 December.
The commodity trader added that its day-to-day operations wouldn’t be affected, with its trade finance facilities to remain available and payments to customers and suppliers to be made as usual.
‘Significant uncertainties’ over New Noble?
Last week, the Singapore Police Force, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) said in a joint statement that there were “significant uncertainties about the financial position of New Noble,” and the company therefore would not be allowed to transfer the listing status.
That was amid on-going investigations into Noble and its subsidiary, Noble Resources International (NRI), by the MAS, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), the joint statement said.
On Friday, Noble said it “regrets” that after 19 months of negotiations with stakeholders, including shareholders, creditors and regulators, the authorities’ have decided to disallow the listing-status transfer to New Noble.
Noble also said that NRI disagreed with accounting positions taken by ACRA and it intended to submit a comprehensive response.
The company noted that the investigation has focused on NRI, with no current investigations of any individuals, and that its related to “technical accounting-related issues.”
In mid-November, ACRA, CAD and MAS said Noble was under investigation for suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements under the Securities and Futures Act, while NRI was under investigation for potential non-compliance with accounting standards.
At the time, Noble said it would cooperate with the investigation, and then subsequently added that it would extend the timeline for its restructuring.
The joint investigation reignited a years-long drama over the troubled commodity trader just as it had appeared to be reaching an end.
Noble has faced a gamut of a once-anonymous critic, Iceberg Research, whose allegations of accounting issues had weighed 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 last month, when Noble requested its shares be suspended from trade permanently. 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.