Noble Group CEO says markets 'difficult' amid push to refinance

Noble Group chief executive officer Yusuf Alireza said that the commodities markets remain difficult as he presses on with efforts to refinance the company's debt.
Noble Group chief executive officer Yusuf Alireza said that the commodities markets remain difficult as he presses on with efforts to refinance the company's debt. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Singapore-listed Noble Group chief executive officer Yusuf Alireza said that the commodities markets remain difficult as he presses on with efforts to refinance the company's debt.

"The markets are difficult. To sit here with confidence and say the worst is behind us is just not realistic," Mr Alireza said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore. "Our jobs are just to come in every day and do our jobs, focus on the business and deliver results and in the end the market will judge us and our investors will judge us."

Asia's largest commodity trader is seeking to chart a recovery in 2016 after a savage year in which it posted the first annual loss in almost two decades, had its credit-rating cut to junk and saw its shares sink along with a rout in raw material prices. While the costs of the group's revolving credit facility were seen as going up, its weighted average cost of debt was expected to remain about the same, Mr Alireza said on Thursday (April 13), speaking ahead of the company's annual general meeting in the city-state.

"What's important to us is not one transaction, the revolver, what's important is the weighted average cost of our debt," said Mr Alireza, who was appointed as CEO in 2012. "That's what's important in terms of the costs of our financing."

Noble Group shares - which collapsed 65 per cent in 2015 and were subsequently removed from the blue-chip Straits Times Index - have climbed 10 per cent this year to close at 44 Singapore cents on Wednesday. Its March 2018 notes have surged in six of the past seven weeks to 78.6 cents on the dollar, up from an all-time low of 40.7 cents on Jan 22, according to Bloomberg-compiled prices.

Last year, Mr Alireza strove to turn around the company's fortunes, selling assets to raise cash including the remaining 49 percent stake in Noble Agri Ltd, boosting transparency and taking writedowns. Founder and chairman Richard Elman wrote in the annual report released last month that the company needs to be smaller and more nimble, while saying that it wasn't possible to tell when the commodity market would turn.