Noble Group's lenders in talks on S$2.8b credit line: FT

Noble's market value has shrunk to just over US$300 million from US$6 billion in February 2015.
Noble's market value has shrunk to just over US$300 million from US$6 billion in February 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Noble Group's main banks are in talks to decide whether to give the commodity trader an extension on its credit line or force it into a restructuring or liquidation, the Financial Times newspaper said.

Banks including HSBC, Societe Generale, ABN Amro, Citigroup and ING have appointed legal advisers to consider the case for extending the US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) line of credit so the company can continue searching for an investor to recapitalise the business, the FT said on Tuesday (June 6).

Banks have hired consultants Alvarez & Marsal, who are assessing the collateral pledged by Noble against the credit line, the FT said, citing sources with knowledge of the discussions.

Singapore-listed Noble's main lenders have appointed law firm Clifford Chance to advise them on the next step for credit facilities, one source said, adding that Noble had hired Kirkland & Ellis as legal counsel.

The source declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

There was no immediate response from Kirkland & Ellis to a query sent outside regular business hours.

Last month, Reuters reported that Noble was negotiating with banks to roll over a US$2 billion credit facility, secured on its inventories and working capital. The facility is due to be rolled over by the end of June. Noble has already drawn about US$620 million cash from the one-year facility.

In May, Noble said that it was in talks with core participant banks about a new borrowing base facility which would again feature a cash draw-down component.

Clifford Chance, Citigroup, ING and Noble Group declined to comment. HSBC, Societe Generale and ABN Amro did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside regular business hours.

"I think it is likely that (Noble) will get some extension (to the credit line) but it all depends on how much the lenders believe in the credibility of management and its plans," an executive at one of Noble's lenders was quoted as telling the FT.

Noble has struggled ever since Iceberg Research questioned its accounts in early 2015, during a brutal downturn in commodity markets. The company has stood by its accounts.

But the share price collapsed and credit rating downgrades, management upheavals and a series of writedowns, asset sales and a fund raising ensued.

Noble's market value has shrunk to just over US$300 million from US$6 billion in February 2015. The company reported a surprise quarterly loss of US$129.3 million for January-March.