Noble's treasury head quits; most high-profile exit in over a year

A Hong-Kong based spokesman at Noble confirmed that Mr Wildrik was leaving the company but declined to provide details or say if Noble had appointed a replacement.
A Hong-Kong based spokesman at Noble confirmed that Mr Wildrik was leaving the company but declined to provide details or say if Noble had appointed a replacement.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON/SINGAPORE • The treasury head of Noble Group has resigned, at a time when the mainboard-listed commodity trader is slimming down drastically to its core Asian coal-trading business.

Group treasurer Wildrik de Blank's exit is the most high-profile departure at Noble since Mr Yusuf Alireza quit unexpectedly as chief executive in May last year and two new co-CEOs were appointed.

Mr Wildrik, who was involved in the company's negotiations with its main lenders, is leaving the Hong Kong-headquartered firm after a 16-year stint.

"We mutually agreed on the departure and I leave a strong team behind," he told Reuters.

A Hong-Kong based spokesman at Noble confirmed that Mr Wildrik was leaving the company but declined to provide details or say if Noble had appointed a replacement.

The news follows reports that the commodity trader is expected to pick a buyer for its oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) units by the middle of this month to cover debts and cut credit exposure after a first-half loss of US$1.9 billion (S$2.6 billion).

Noble's US$2 billion credit facility expires next month, a date set by creditors after a four-month extension.

Noble's LNG business would be included in the sale, the sources said.

The firm delivered 2 million tonnes of LNG in 2015 after securing a deal to supply Egypt and contracts in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, Noble's spokesman in Hong Kong said yesterday the company had no plans to sell its LNG business.

In an update of its strategic review in July, Noble had reiterated its focus on the LNG business, along with hard commodities and freight, he said.

It said then it was selling its North American gas and power business to Mercuria and also said it would sell its capital-intensive oil liquids business, leaving it focused on hard commodities.

Suitors for the oil business have already signed non-disclosure deals, one source told Reuters.

Noble declined to comment on the timeline to pick a buyer for its oil liquids business.

Once Asia's largest commodity trading house, Noble is slashing jobs and selling assets to cut debt.

Noble has taken writedowns of more than US$2 billion since the start of last year.

Its market value has plunged by 90 per cent from US$6 billion in February 2015 to just over US$400 million.

Its shares are down about 70 per cent this year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2017, with the headline 'Noble's treasury head quits; most high-profile exit in over a year'. Print Edition | Subscribe