Noble shares surge, then close in the red

An employee walks past a signage of Noble Resources, a Noble Group subsidiary, at their premises in Singapore.
An employee walks past a signage of Noble Resources, a Noble Group subsidiary, at their premises in Singapore.PHOTO: REUTERS

Price drops a cent lower at 57 cents , hit by China's yuan devaluation, mixed sentiment

Noble Group shares initially rebounded yesterday but finished in the red, in part because they were hit by China's move to dramatically weaken the yuan.

But analysts said that overall sentiment on the firm has not yet improved despite the management's recent push to rebuild public confidence.

Noble closed one cent lower at 57 cents, with more than 307 million shares changing hands. The counter kicked off the day with a surge of about 8 per cent.

But a sell-off came after China's move yesterday to devalue the yuan shocked Asian markets into a region-wide retreat.

Singapore's benchmark Straits Times Index shed 1.36 per cent. Noble, with 30 per cent of its business volume contributed by China, was not immune to investor concerns of currency impact.

REBUILDING CONFIDENCE

Noble has definitely put in a lot of efforts to rebuild public confidence, but I don't think it has turned this thing around yet.

REMISIER DESMOND LEONG

Meanwhile, concerns around Noble's financials and outlook may yet persist, analysts told The Straits Times.

The embattled commodity company had hoped that it had reached an "inflection point" in its long war of words against critics after PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded on Monday that Noble had not breached accounting rules following a business model review.

And in announcing Noble's second-quarter results on Monday, chief executive Yusuf Alireza noted that the core businesses were still healthy despite the challenging commodity market. Net profit for the three months to June 30 slid 5 per cent, but volume delivered grew 40 per cent in the first six months this year, Mr Alireza said.

"I had expected Noble's recent recovery to sustain, but it may be that sentiments around Noble have deteriorated beyond recovery, no matter what the management shows or says," CMC Markets analyst Nicholas Teo said.

"Certainly, its move to provide more disclosures and the second-quarter results, which were really not too bad considering the market conditions, did not justify the uncontrollable drop (of share prices)."

Remisier Desmond Leong said: "Noble has definitely put in a lot of efforts to rebuild public confidence, but I don't think it has turned this thing around yet.

"Sentiments are still mixed and what happened (yesterday) showed that there is still a lot of sellers waiting on the sideline to cut losses whenever there's a bounce."

Barclays, however, maintains its overweight call on Noble, with a target price of $1.20, saying in a note yesterday that Noble's five year volume growth has been strong while its commodity mix continues to improve.

Amid the mixed views, the management was reported to have approached investment banker Michael Klein to review options for the company, including bank financing or selling a stake.

Noble itself said last week that it has been approached by parties interested in investing in the company, stirring talk that a white knight may soon rescue Noble with a take-over.

"We don't know if there'll actually be a deal, but just the talk of seeking an investor is already suggesting that the management may be getting desperate of the situation," Mr Teo said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2015, with the headline 'Noble shares surge, then close in the red'. Print Edition | Subscribe