Noble Group chaiman Elman boosts stake FOR 2nd straight day amid rout

Noble Group chairman Richard Elman.
Noble Group chairman Richard Elman.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Noble Group chairman Richard Elman bought more stock in the Singapore-listed commodity trader he founded, boosting his stake for the second time in two days, after the shares sank to the lowest since 2008 and the company's credit rating was cut to junk.

Mr Elman purchased 10 million shares on Monday for S$3.34 million, raising his holding to 22.28 per cent, according to a statement to the Singapore Exchange on Tuesday (Jan 12). He has now bought stock at least nine times over the past year, adding 50.8 million shares, according to a tally by Bloomberg. Mr Elman purchased 10 million shares on Friday for S$3.19 million.

Noble, which lost about two-thirds of its market value last year amid attacks on its accounts, has extended losses in 2016 after Standard & Poor's joined Moody's Investors Service in cutting its rating below investment grade.

In the past year, the Hong Kong-based company has sought to reassure investors by paring debt, selling assets and boosting transparency, with Mr Elman pledging to shareholders last June to "right the damage".

That defence has been undermined as China's slowdown hurts commodity demand and prices, prompting investors to shun raw-material companies. Noble's shares sank as much as 3 per cent to 32.5 Singapore cents on Tuesday.

Noble executives led by chief executive officer Yusuf Alireza have made efforts to buoy the company's creditworthiness. They agreed in December to sell the remaining 49 per cent of its agricultural unit to China's Cofco Corp for at least US$750 million (S$1.07 billion) to reduce debt. Cofco already owned the other 51 per cent.

Noble will hold a special general meeting on Jan 28 to approve the sale, according to a separate statement.