Liquidation not Noble's only choice: Goldilocks

Goldilocks Investment Company, a major shareholder of Noble Group, yesterday issued a statement highlighting "serious inaccuracies and deficiencies" of Noble's response to the Singapore bourse on its restructuring support agreement (RSA).

Chief of these include Goldilocks' belief that liquidation is not the only alternative to the RSA plan, and that Noble's board has not provided any substantive justification as to why its existing management deserves "free equity, along with a full release from liability".

In a March 26 announcement, Noble had said that its restructuring is fair and equitable to shareholders on the basis that senior creditors are the economic owners of Noble, Goldilocks noted. This means that the board takes the position that its shareholders are "out of money", Goldilocks said. Concurrently, the embattled commodities trader is saying that it is able to continue as a going concern until such time as the restructuring is completed, and the fund manager is contesting that these positions are not consistent.

According to Goldilocks, it is inappropriate for the board to use Noble's liquidation value as a basis to prematurely conclude that senior creditors are the sole economic owners of Noble. It added that Noble's intent in doing so is twofold - to threaten shareholders; and to push through the RSA negotiated with a small number of creditors.

Contrary to what Noble's board is claiming, alternatives to restructuring contemplated under the RSA are not limited to liquidation, Goldilocks said. "White knight and refinancing proposals have been put forward to the board, and the board has rejected them, without providing any details or reasons."

Goldilocks is also contending that Noble's board has failed to provide meaningful response as to why its management, whose stewardship led to net losses of US$4.9 billion (S$6.4 billion) in fiscal year 2017, should be entitled to a 10 per cent equity of the New Noble post-restructuring. Itsaid the board has not explained why Noble's management should be entitled to "a cashless, interest-free loan" from senior creditors to subscribe for an option for a further 10 per cent of the ordinary share capital of New Noble.

Goldilocks also noted that Noble's board has not given adequate justification that an administration process in England would be better than judicial management in Singapore. In particular, Noble has not offered details including the "costs, process duration, and certainty of outcomes" that makes an administration order in the UK preferable.

Goldilocks said Noble has side-stepped the point that though its 2018, 2020 and 2022 notes are governed either by English law or New York law, they are listed and quoted in Singapore, where Noble has more real and tangible connections.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2018, with the headline 'Liquidation not Noble's only choice: Goldilocks'. Print Edition | Subscribe