Noble posts 29.6% drop in Q1 earnings

Noble said earnings last year were at a high base due to stronger energy market conditions. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Noble said earnings last year were at a high base due to stronger energy market conditions. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Noble Group reported on May 5 a net profit of US$107 million (S$147.7 million) for the first quarter, down 29.6 per cent from US$152 million a year ago.

This was on the back of a 7.3 per cent fall in revenue to US$16.64 billion for the three months ended March 31.

Noble said earnings last year were at a high base due to stronger energy market conditions.

The mainboard-listed commodity firm added that net profit improved by almost US$350 million compared to the fourth quarter last year, when a net loss of US$240 million was reported.

The quarter-on-quarter "turnaround" was driven partly by encouraging performances from the oil liquids and metals business despite the slowdown of commodity demand in China.

Noble released its first quarter results amid ongoing market scrutiny on the firm's financials, after a string of disparaging reports by Iceberg Research since February claimed that the company resorted to accounting frauds to cover up cash flow and debt issues.

An impairment of US$438 million was incurred for 2014, Noble said in its full year results briefing in March, adding to speculations that the firm is in financial troubles.

But the management, led by chairman Richard Elman and chief executive Yusuf Alireza, has repeatedly insisted that the financial processes and balance sheet of the company remains sound.

In the past quarter, Noble has redeployed the US$3.3 billion received from the disposal of agricultural unit Noble Agri, and the firm's liquidity headroom now remains at "industry leading level", Noble said when announcing its latest results.

"In addition, we announced this evening, after market closed, that the group's revolving credit facility has received full commitments for the targeted US$2.25 billion," it added.

Earnings per share were 1.54 US cents, down year-on-year by 30.6 per cent, while book net asset value stood at 76 US cents as at March 31.

Shares of Noble closed 3.5 cents or 4.1 per cent higher at 89 cents ahead of the results announcement.