MAS: Looking into roles of Noble officers as part of investigation

Singapore two-dollar bills

Troubled commodity trader Noble Group may see some of its officers come under scrutiny from Singapore authorities.

In response to questions on whether authorities were investigating individuals from Nobel Group and its subsidiary Noble Resources International, a spokesperson at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) told Shenton Wire via email on Thursday, “as part of the joint investigation, the authorities are looking into the role that Noble Group Limited (NGL) and Noble Resources International Pte Ltd. (NRI), as well as their officers, may have played in any breaches of the law.”

That was after Bloomberg reported that Singapore authorities were looking into whether Noble Group officers had broken the law. The Bloomberg report said the MAS didn’t name anyone under investigation.

Noble didn’t immediately return Shenton Wire’s emailed request for comment; Bloomberg reported that Noble declined to comment.

The MAS statement might contradict a statement which Noble filed to SGX on 7 December. At that time, Noble had said, “the investigation is focused on NRIPL and the company and there are currently no investigations on any specific individuals.”


‘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, 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.

On Tuesday, Noble said it would seek the appointment of a court-appointed officer in Bermuda to implement its restructuring plan, adding 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.

Even without the listing, shareholders would still receive a 20 percent aggregate stake in New Noble, it said.

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.

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