Noble Group downgraded by Moody's as liquidity seen pressured

 The company logo of Noble Group is displayed at its office in Hong Kong, China on January 22.
The company logo of Noble Group is displayed at its office in Hong Kong, China on January 22. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Singapore-listed Noble Group was downgraded two levels by Moody's Investors Service, as the ratings agency said the commodity trader's liquidity "could come under further pressure over the next 12 months" amid weaker-than-expected profitability.

The company's cash flow will also remain under pressure over the next year, Moody's said in a statement as it downgraded Noble Group to B2 from Ba3. That along with pressure on profits "could further weaken liquidity and hinder its ability to maintain compliance with financial covenants in its credit agreements," the agency said.

Noble posted a second-quarter net loss of US$54.9 million and an increase in net debt. Its shares have dropped 53 per cent this year.

In a tumultuous 18 months, Noble Group has lost its blue chip status and investment-grade rating amid sliding commodity prices and attacks on its accounting. Former chief executive officer Yusuf Alireza quit in May and days later the company announced an emergency rights issue and said founder and chairman Richard Elman would step down within 12 months. It's cutting jobs, selling assets and exiting some markets as it seeks to prop up its finances.

The move by Moody's stands in contrast to Fitch Ratings, which said in a statement on Monday that Noble's liquidity crunch may prove temporary as it will probably generate about $900 million in the coming months including proceeds from the recent rights issue.