Noble Group CEO says he should have pushed harder for more transparency

Noble Group chief executive officer Yusuf Alireza.
Noble Group chief executive officer Yusuf Alireza. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Singapore-listed Noble Group, which faced criticism of its accounting, should have been "more forceful" in pushing the company to be more transparent to fend off the attacks, chief executive officer Yusuf Alireza said.

The Singapore-listed company that's also Asia's biggest commodities trader said being transparent was a challenge as it gave competitors a peek into its business. Most of Noble's rivals are private companies and didn't face the same scrutiny, said Mr Alireza.

"It's the lesser of two evils," Mr Alireza said at a conference in Singapore. "In hindsight I should have been more forceful with the board about supporting more transparency because I think if we had more transparency up front we'd be less exposed."

Noble's stock has lost more than half of its value since mid-February when a group calling itself Iceberg Research criticized its accounting practices. Investors have also been deserting companies linked to commodities as faltering demand in China, the biggest buyer of metals and energy, sent prices of raw materials plunging.

The Hong Kong-based trader has defended its accounting methods, publishing a report in August from PricewaterhouseCoopers that said it complied with international rules in valuing long-term contracts.

Shares in Noble rose as much as 3.2 per cent to 48.5 cents on Wednesday (Oct 14) before trading at 47.5 cents at 12:32 pm local time. The stock's 58 per cent slump this made it the worst performer on the benchmark Straits Times Index.