Investors agree to sell Noble unit to Mercuria

Noble Group is in the second phase of the sale of its global oil liquids unit, said a Business Times report.
Noble Group is in the second phase of the sale of its global oil liquids unit, said a Business Times report.PHOTO: REUTERS

Shareholders of embattled Noble Group gave the green light yesterday for the sale of the group's North American gas and power unit to rival Mercuria Energy Group.

Investors at the special general meeting were 99.76 per cent in favour of the proposal.

The sale - aimed at paring Noble's debt - is expected to bring in about US$261 million (S$353.4 million) based on the second-quarter results, slightly higher than the US$248 million sum that was initially announced.

It is slated to be completed before Oct 15, subject to regulatory approval.

The sale comes as part of a broader strategic review that Noble started in May with debt reduction over the next two years as a key priority.

Noble chairman Paul Brough also told shareholders at the meeting that the group is in the second phase of the sale of its global oil liquids unit, said a Business Times report.

The proceeds from the sales will be used to retire as much as US$3 billion in credit facilities linked to these operations, as well as the group's remaining debt.

The group is now in "very difficult" circumstances, and has not been able to operate on a business-as-usual basis after it lost the support of its bankers, said Mr Brough.

"Rest assured that I am doing all I can to avoid any kind of formal process and I'm doing all I can to turn the business around," he added.

At the same time, Noble is in discussions with its United States lenders to extend an October deadline for a US$2 billion credit facility, said Mr Brough, according to a separate Reuters article.

He noted that the lenders have been very supportive of the company's plans to sell assets.

"We have approached them for a further extension so that we can complete the oil liquids sale on a stable basis. I am hoping that we can also speak to our RCF (revolving credit facility) lenders about further forbearance from them," Mr Brough said.

He added that the sale is expected to be agreed to by the end of this month.

Noble has around US$2.6 billion in credit facilities and bonds due in the next year, with rating agencies warning of a risk of a default.

Noble shares closed 3.8 per cent or 1.5 cents up at 41.5 cents yesterday, before the results of the poll were announced in an exchange filing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2017, with the headline 'Investors agree to sell Noble unit to Mercuria'. Print Edition | Subscribe