SIAS takes Noble's side as market allegations persist

Noble Group is accused of manipulating its balance sheet through aggressive valuation.
Noble Group is accused of manipulating its balance sheet through aggressive valuation. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Securities Investors Association Singapore (SIAS) gave Noble Group its backing on Tuesday (March 1), defending the commodity firm against allegations made on the firm's accounting practices and governance issues.

These allegations "should be of no concern to shareholders", SIAS said in a statement after a meeting with Noble's senior management to discuss the criticisms laid out in Iceberg Research's fourth report.

The report came out an hour before Noble released its 2015 results last Thursday (February 25), renewing Iceberg's claims that Noble manipulated its balance sheet through aggressive valuation, and the management has lost its credibility.

But SIAS said the share price increase after Noble's results announcement showed a "return in investor confidence".

"Noble has expressed its willingness to continue to engage with SIAS on a regular basis as part of the company's outreach to retail investors. SIAS also cautious investors not to accept reports by unregistered and unregulated writers and bloggers," the association added.

Noble has been fighting a long war of words with Iceberg Research, piling pressure on the company's already weak performance amid the global commodity crunch.

The company was hit by a US$1.67 billion net loss in 2015, after exceptional impairment made to account for weak coal prices.

The move has divided market views, with many questioning whether the write-off indeed underlines issues with Noble's valuation model, and Standard & Poor's has moved to further cut its credit rating after the results announcement.

But Fitch Ratings noted that the impairment removed uncertainties from the balance sheet, and Noble's ability to sustain operating cash flow is another encouraging sign.

Noble shares closed down one cent or 2.9 per cent to 33.5 cents on Tuesday.