Noble's founder seeking new restructuring deal: Sources

Mr Richard Elman wants a say in Noble's future, potentially including a seat on the board, a source said.
Mr Richard Elman wants a say in Noble's future, potentially including a seat on the board, a source said.

LONDON • Mr Richard Elman, the founder and largest shareholder of Noble Group, is pushing the embattled commodities trader's creditors for a new restructuring deal, according to people familiar with the matter, casting fresh doubt on the survival of the company.

Noble needs the support of at least half of the shareholders that vote in a special meeting for a US$3.5 billion (S$4.6 billion) debt-for-equity restructuring plan that will all but wipe out equity investors.

If shareholders reject the plan, the company plans to file for insolvency in London.

Mr Elman, who resigned from the board last month due to "differences of opinion" with Noble's directors and creditors over its future, is pushing to raise the stake that current shareholders will get in the firm immediately after the restructuring to 15-20 per cent, up from 10 per cent under the current deal, said the people, who asked not to be named.

Mr Elman, 77, also wants a say in the company's future, potentially including a seat on the board, one of the people said.

He is pushing for a better deal for himself and others, days after stock market regulator Singapore Exchange (SGX) criticised the restructuring plan and asked creditors to reconsider some of its proposals.

Noble said on Monday that it is "in discussions with shareholders and the SGX on the restructuring". The firm declined to elaborate further. It is unclear whether Mr Elman is talking to creditors via the company or directly.

Noble had been planning to seek irrevocable undertakings from shareholders to support the deal in mid-to late March, according to a presentation published on March 14. It has yet to announce any irrevocable shareholder undertakings.

The company has long said it would prefer to secure shareholder approval for the deal rather than complete the restructuring via an insolvency and administration process in Britain that could damage its commercial ties.

As such, shareholders may have some leverage to convince management and the creditors to reopen the deal.

Mr Elman started Noble with US$100,000 of his savings in 1986 in Hong Kong and grew it to a US$10 billion giant at one point.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'Noble's founder seeking new restructuring deal: Sources'. Print Edition | Subscribe