Noble back in the black for 2016

SINGAPORE - Noble Group was back in the black for the full year in 2016 despite the further drop in revenue.

The commodity firm announced a net profit of US$8.65 million (S$12.1 million) for the twelve months ended Dec 31, a marked reversal from 2015's US$1.67 billion loss.

Revenue dropped 30 per cent year on year to US$46.53 billion, but a much smaller share of loss from associates - at US$59.26 million compared with the US$271.51 million loss in 2015 - helped provide some relief.

The divestment of Noble Americas Energy Solutions (NES) - completed in December - also put a gain of US$291 million on the book, as the firm continued its effort to buffer its capital and reduce debt level.

Meanwhile, the group headcount was reduced by 30 per cent in 2016 to around 1,050 people at the end of last year.

Noble's management said it has made "significant strides" in 2016.

"We strengthened our capital base with a US$500 million rights issue in August 2016, and exceeded our target or raising US$2 billion in capital with the closing of the sale of NES," it said when announcing the results on Monday (Feb 27).

Net debt to capital ratio was 42 per cent at the end of last year, down from 55 per cent in 2015.

Noble Group was hit by allegations of dubious accounting and fair value manipulation in 2015, triggering a massive share price decline that was compounded by weak commodity prices.

Iceberg Research - the blog that launched the initial attacks on Noble - broke its long silence last week to reiterate the alleged issues, in response to the recent news that Noble is in talks with China's Sinochem over a strategic investment.

Noble shares jumped 2.22 per cent to 23 cents, ahead of the results announcement.