Noble founder backs restructuring proposal

Mr Richard Elman has given an undertaking to support the restructuring.
Mr Richard Elman has given an undertaking to support the restructuring.

He gets board seat in new entity and shareholders get 15% equity

Noble Group founder and largest shareholder Richard Elman is backing the firm's restructuring plan after it was tweaked to give him a board seat in the new entity and shareholders 15 per cent of its equity.

Noble had previously proposed to provide shareholders with 10 per cent of the shares in New Noble - the name of the slimmed-down group that will emerge from the restructuring.

Shareholders were also entitled to a further 7.5 per cent through options provided to the management, which is obliged to share these with investors.

Mr Elman resigned from the board last month because of "differences of opinion" with Noble directors and creditors over the firm's future. He was reportedly pushing to raise the stake that shareholders will get in the restructured firm to 15 per cent to 20 per cent.

Noble said in an announcement yesterday that it has also agreed to appoint Mr Elman as an executive director to the New Noble board.

In return, Mr Elman, who holds 17.9 per cent of Noble through Noble Holdings, has given an irrevocable undertaking to support the restructuring.

He said in Noble's statement: "Having founded Noble over 30 years ago, the last three years have been particularly difficult for the company and for me personally.

"The revised structure granting shareholders 15 per cent equity in New Noble has my full support. Under the circumstances, I believe the allocation of 15 per cent is fair to all shareholders and I hope that others will vote in favour of the revised proposal as I have agreed to."

The amended restructuring plan will enable Noble's management to rebuild its business around the Asian trading franchise that has demonstrated "incredible resilience" during this challenging period, added Mr Elman.

"I am confident in our management team. They have shown great loyalty and resolve in protecting our core businesses and I look forward to supporting the rebuilding and growth of New Noble in any way I can."

Noble chairman Paul Brough said the important commitment from Mr Elman, combined with the support from more than 75 per cent of creditors as required for the restructuring, shows that the company is now "firmly entering the last stage and seeing material progress".

He added in the statement: "As the company's founder, Richard's experience and knowledge make his support uniquely important and, as a director, these qualities will assist New Noble in the realisation of its potential and, once again, in delivering value to all our stakeholders.

"We progress through this restructuring process with growing confidence of a positive outcome for all stakeholders."

Noble also noted that senior creditors representing over 83 per cent of its debt have acceded to the restructuring agreement. The company needs 75 per cent approval from creditors to implement the accord under a planned scheme of arrangement. The firm added that it "remains confident" more creditors will join in support in advance of the scheme meetings.

The positive news sent Noble's shares to as high as 14.8 cents yesterday, before they closed at 13.1 cents - up 0.5 cent, or 4 per cent. The stock was the third-most active on the Singapore Exchange, with 50.7 million shares changing hands.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2018, with the headline 'Noble founder backs restructuring proposal'. Print Edition | Subscribe