EY audits under inspection as part of probe into Noble

On Sunday, Noble moved the deadline for its US$3.5 billion (S$4.8 billion) debt restructuring back by two weeks to address regulators' concerns.
On Sunday, Noble moved the deadline for its US$3.5 billion (S$4.8 billion) debt restructuring back by two weeks to address regulators' concerns.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The authorities here are inspecting the work done by accountants EY (Singapore) as part of an ongoing probe into the embattled Singapore-listed Noble Group.

Yesterday, the Commercial Affairs Department and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said they have directed EY to produce documents relating to the audit of Noble Resources International (NRI), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Noble Group.

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) said it has sent a notification letter to EY about the start of its inspection on audits of NRI for the financial years ended Dec 31, 2012 to Dec 31, 2016.

NRI is the trader's key corporate entity in Singapore and the subsidiary that handled most of its coal trading activities.

This comes about a week after the three agencies said Noble, which was once Asia's top commodity trader, is being probed for suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements.

Apart from possible breaches by Noble Group, the agencies had earlier announced they are also looking into potential non-compliance with accounting standards by NRI.

The trading of the company's shares has been suspended amid its restructuring. On Sunday, the company had moved the deadline for its US$3.5 billion (S$4.8 billion) debt restructuring back by two weeks to address regulators' concerns.

Allegations against Noble came to light after an Iceberg Research report over three years ago, which claimed the trading house's long-term contracts were probably overvalued. It triggered a US$10 billion collapse in Noble shares. Its market valuation fell to just $107.5 million.

While questions were raised on why probes had not commenced sooner, MAS' assistant managing director (Capital Markets), Mr Lee Boon Ngiap, said EY had been giving Noble a clean bill of health for the previous three years, and there was a substantial write-down later.

He said the authorities were looking into the issue and "there needs to be reasonable basis for an investigation as these actions can have far-reaching implications for the companies and their shareholders".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'EY audits under inspection as part of probe into Noble'. Print Edition | Subscribe