2015: A year of battles

For Noble Group, 2015 was a year packed with relentless punches - from detractors, short-sellers and media headlines.

Here is a look back at the woes the group encountered.

FEBRUARY

Little-known US-based research outfit Iceberg Research on Feb 15 issued the first of a number of critiques on Noble Group, claiming that it used accounting loopholes to avoid large impairments and to fabricate profit.

Noble rejected all allegations. But it posted a shock US$240 million (S$338 million) loss - its first quarterly loss in more than three years - for the fourth quarter to Dec 31 last year, owing largely to an unexpected US$438 million write-off.

MARCH

Iceberg released its third report on March 21, saying Noble's debts have been understated.

A few days later, Noble named former employee Arnaud Vagner as the man behind Iceberg and filed a lawsuit against him for having allegedly made "inaccurate, unreliable and misleading" claims.

APRIL

Muddy Waters, a research firm founded by short-seller Carson Block, joined the fray when it published a report questioning Noble's cash flow and management, while announcing it had taken a short position on Noble shares.

Noble issued a strong rebuttal. It embarked on a series of share buybacks, while promising greater transparency.

JUNE

Standard & Poor's revised its rating outlook on Noble from stable to negative, citing a weakened trading risk position that could spark greater earnings volatility.

AUGUST

An assurance review by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that Noble's practices comply with international requirements and standard industry practices, although there are areas for improvement.

DECEMBER

Moody's downgraded Noble's credit rating to junk.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline '2015: A year of battles'. Print Edition | Subscribe