Singapore shares subdued; Noble hits 6-week high

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore stocks started the week on a tepid note with shares of Noble Group topping the index to hit a six-week week high after the company reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings last week.

The benchmark Straits Times Index was little changed at 3,264.36 by midday, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.3 per cent.

Shares of Noble climbed nearly 4 per cent to $1.315, a level not seen since April 4, extending gains from last Friday after the company posted quarterly profits on Thursday that more than tripled from the same period last year.

The commodities firm's stock was among the most actively-traded on the index, with more than 52 million shares changing hands, more than 1.8 times its 30-day trading average.

Among other gainers, Wilmar International gained 2.2 per cent to a 1-1/2-week high of $3.27, after Goodman Fielder said its board had recommended accepting a sweetened takeover bid by Wilmar and its partner First Pacific Co.

"We believe that the acquisition will be long-term positive for Wilmar as it will allow the group to expand its consumer products range as well as derive some cost benefits," said CIMB analyst Ivy Ng in a research note.

She maintained a "hold" call on Wilmar, noting its lacklustre earnings prospects in the near term.

Shares in Goodpack inched down 0.4 per cent to $2.44, after hitting an all-time high of $2.47 on Friday. Sources said US private equity firm KKR & Co is nearing a deal to buy the company, the world's largest maker of intermediate bulk containers which has a market value of $1.36 billion.