Noble under investigation for various suspected breaches

The Commercial Affairs Department and Monetary Authority of Singapore as well as the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority are probing Noble Group for suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements. The grou
The Commercial Affairs Department and Monetary Authority of Singapore as well as the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority are probing Noble Group for suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements. The group's subsidiary, Noble Resources International, is also under investigation for suspected breaches of the Companies Act.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Singapore-listed Noble Group, once Asia's top commodity trader, is being investigated by the authorities here for suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements.

The investigations were disclosed yesterday in a joint statement from the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).

The statement comes days after Noble announced that its US$3.5 billion (S$4.8 billion) debt restructuring had received approval from the English and Bermuda courts.

Noble shares have been suspended from trading since Monday amid this restructuring. It is unclear if the investigations will affect the restructuring or the proposed listing of the restructured business.

Apart from possible breaches by the Noble Group, the agencies said yesterday that they are investigating potential non-compliance with accounting standards by the firm's wholly-owned subsidiary, Noble Resources International (NRI).

They stated yesterday that NRI's board has been notified that Acra has made findings of its suspected breaches of the Companies Act and told the directors to provide further information. This follows an "extensive review of the financial statements of NRI" for the financial years ending Dec 31, 2012 to Dec 31, 2016.

The CAD and MAS have also directed Noble Group and NRI to produce documents relating to the preparation of Noble Group's financial statements, including information referred to the authorities by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) Regulation and other third parties.

 

An SGX spokesman said its regulatory unit will review whether the investigations will have any impact on the financial statements Noble Group earlier disclosed in a circular related to its proposed restructuring. "Trading can only start after restructuring has been completed and this is in turn dependent on our review," the SGX spokesman said.

Noble Group, which is based in Hong Kong, did not respond to The Straits Times' queries by press time.

The company's market value plunged from US$6 billion in February 2015 after its accounting was questioned by Iceberg Research, which is led by a former Noble credit analyst.

Last week, it reported an overall net loss of US$99 million (S$136 million) in the three months ended Sept 30, compared with a loss of US$1.17 billion (S$1.6 billion) in the same quarter last year. Its market value was just $107.5 million last Friday.

Noble has shrunk its operations and now aims to transform into a coal-trading business focused on Asia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2018, with the headline 'Noble under investigation for various suspected breaches'. Print Edition | Subscribe