Noble Group's US$2 billion loan deal prompts default-swap question

An employee walks past a signage of Noble Resources, a Noble Group subsidiary, at their premises in Singapore.
An employee walks past a signage of Noble Resources, a Noble Group subsidiary, at their premises in Singapore. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Just days after Noble Group secured a US$2 billion (S$2.76 billion) loan extension, some investors in the credit protection market are looking to get paid.

The International Swaps & Derivatives Association has been asked to decide whether a four-month loan extension from the Hong Kong-based company's banks constitutes a so-called restructuring credit event. An anonymous party filed a petition on Monday asking the determinations committee to consider the question, which could mean payouts for holders of credit-default swaps on almost US$5 billion of company debt.

A London-based media representative for Noble Group, once Asia's leading commodity trader, declined to comment.

Perpetual bonds from the Group slid four points on Tuesday after the commodity trader said it would defer coupon payment on the instrument which is due on June 26. The US$400 million perpetual bonds are indicated at 11/14 cents on the dollar after the announcement.

Noble Group had been in talks for weeks over the facility, which underpins its global oil business and was due to expire later this month. The commodity trader reached a preliminary agreement with its banks to extend the facility for 120 days at just under its current US$2 billion limit, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

 
 

The extension resets the clock on the company's attempts to find new investors, sell assets or shutter unprofitable businesses. With its new chairman, Paul Brough - a restructuring specialist who worked on the liquidation of Lehman Brothers Holdings - Noble Group has hired investment banks Morgan Stanley and Moelis & Co. to review its options.

Noble Group remains under severe pressure after enduring several turbulent years marked by losses, credit-rating downgrades, and accusations of improper accounting that the company has denied. The trader's market capitalization has fallen from more than US$10 billion to just US$300 million. S&P Global Ratings last month warned of the risk of a default within a year.