Noble Group will consider all options to strengthen balance sheet: Yusuf Alireza

Yusuf Alireza, chief executive officer of Noble Group Ltd joined his colleagues in a press conference after a five hour meeting with investors on Aug 17.
Yusuf Alireza, chief executive officer of Noble Group Ltd joined his colleagues in a press conference after a five hour meeting with investors on Aug 17.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE - Noble Group's top priority now is to continue to strengthen (see correction note below) its balance sheet, and the management will consider all options to achieve that, including selling businesses and stake to interested parties, chief executive Yusuf Alireza said on Monday.

He made that comment at Noble's Investor Day when shareholders asked whether the embattled firm is looking for a white knight for rescue.

"We must first and foremost ensure a strong and liquid balance sheet (see correction note below) with ... It is our responsibility to look at all options, including selling what under normal circumstances we consider to be core businesses."

He added that there are parties interested in and familiar with Noble's business that have approached the management. But he did not comment on whether such talks are indeed unfolding.

Some 450 people, including shareholders and non-shareholders, attended the five-hour session on Monday, which was organised by Noble as part of its campaign to engage the public and rebuild investor confidence.

Details of Noble's various business units,financials, governance and operating outlook were presented by over 12 executives and directors of the company at Ritz Carlton.

Mr Alireza and chairman Richard Elman were among the speakers.

Organised a week after Noble's second quarter results announcememt, the session was largely peaceful, even though several shareholders voiced their concerns on plummeting share prices.

Noble ended another 7.14 per cent down at 45.5 cents on Monday.

But Mr Alireza stressed that Noble's core business has generated around US$612 million (S$860 million) over the past 12 months, which translated to an around 20 per cent return on equity. He noted that the management cannot control the share prices. Instead it will focus on delivering results.

Noble's troubles persist due partly to the relentless criticisms by Iceberg Research, which continues to accuse Noble of using accounting policy loopholes to give a misleading impression of its financials. Still, some investors went away in a positive mood.

Mr Andrew Lai, a 50-year old full time investor, told the Straits Times: "I have yet to make up my mind about the situation around Noble. But this event is definitely a right step that helped me understand the business and its valuation method better." 

Correction: An earlier version of the story misquoted Mr Yusuf Alireza as saying  "We must first and foremost strengthen our balance sheet", which may have implied the balance sheet was weak. We are sorry for the error.