Noble narrows Q2 loss ahead of key shareholder vote

Noble Group's cash and cash equivalents stood at US$621 million as of June 30, up from US$492 million in end-December last year. This was partially offset by restructuring expenses and interest paid on senior debt prior to signing the binding restruc
Noble Group's cash and cash equivalents stood at US$621 million as of June 30, up from US$492 million in end-December last year. This was partially offset by restructuring expenses and interest paid on senior debt prior to signing the binding restructuring support agreement, said the Hong Kong-based commodity trader.PHOTO: NOBLE GROUP

Two weeks before shareholders of embattled Noble Group are set to vote on its controversial yet do-or-die debt revamp, the commodity trader has reported a second-quarter net loss of US$128.3 million (S$176 million) versus US$1.75 billion a year ago, largely led by expenses related to the restructuring exercise.

Revenue fell 29 per cent to US$1.12 billion from US$1.58 billion.

For the half-year period, the Hong Kong-based trader's losses narrowed to nearly US$200 million from US$1.88 billion on the back of a 35 per cent drop in revenue to US$2.33 billion.

Restructuring expenses for the quarter and the first-half period came up to US$95 million and US$114 million respectively.

"Our underlying business results have improved amid the strong global commodity price environment. Prices are being supported by growth in demand and factors affecting supply such as production cuts and economic sanctions," said Noble executive chairman Paul Brough.

Cash and cash equivalents stood at US$621 million as of June 30 - higher than the US$492 million in end-December last year - owing to net proceeds from the sale of Noble Americas Corp and positive underlying operating cash flow.

  • AT A GLANCE

  • REVENUE: US$1.12 billion (-29%)

    NET LOSS: US$128.3 million (-93%)

This was, however, partially offset by restructuring expenses and interest paid on senior debt prior to signing the binding restructuring support agreement, said Noble.

Late last month, Noble had flagged that it expected to report a quarterly and half-yearly net loss of between US$115 million and US$140 million, and US$185 million and US$210 million, respectively, for the period ended June, due to restructuring expenses and net finance costs.

One Noble watcher said the latest earnings digits were "inconsequential" to him, and more pivotal than those is the outcome of the special general meeting on the group's US$3.5 billion debt restructuring plan scheduled for Aug 27.

Since its unveiling back in January, Noble's rescue plan has been fraught with obstacles and legal woes amid a ticking debt time bomb. But it scored a big relief last month after it sweetened the offer for equity shareholders and removed the stumbling blocks.

"This has been a protracted and complex restructuring, but it provides the group with a stable platform and sustainable structure," said Mr Brough at the results briefing.

This plan has already received support from several key stakeholders, including major shareholders and creditors. If the company gets its way, it will mark the final stage of the long-awaited rescue plan for a company that was once Asia's largest commodity trader.

Even so, the onslaught from Iceberg Research - easily Noble's harshest and most tireless critic - continues. The research outfit yesterday called on Noble's investors - present and past - and former employees to join a legal action against the commodity trader to challenge its scheme of arrangement and start litigation against the parties responsible for what it alleged was "fraud".

Iceberg Research said "many" of Noble's investors, be it of shares, perpetuals or bond holders, who have suffered massive losses, have approached the firm on how they could sue Noble and its managers.

"These investors are naturally exasperated," it said. "We have talked to experienced law firms. They are ready to represent the interests of these investors. Some securities holders already want to join this action. We encourage other investors to contact us," it said, adding that litigation funders are also interested in financing the lawsuits, which would considerably lower litigation costs.

Noble stock closed unchanged at 12.2 cents yesterday and was the sixth most actively traded, with 24 million shares worth $2.9 million done.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2018, with the headline 'Noble narrows Q2 loss ahead of key shareholder vote'. Print Edition | Subscribe