Noble Group Extends Restructuring Deadline Following Probe

(Bloomberg) -- Noble Group Ltd. extended the deadline for its marathon restructuring until Dec. 11 to address regulators’ concerns, a week after Singaporean authorities began an investigation into the embattled commodity trader’s finances.

The company on Sunday moved the deadline for the $3.5 billion debt restructuring back by two weeks. Noble said that Singapore’s Securities Industry Council extended a key waiver to allow the deadline to be pushed back. That’ll be taken as a positive sign by investors, suggesting that the Singaporean authorities aren’t intent on preventing the restructuring from taking place.

The waiver is necessary for the deal to go ahead without creditors, who will control the company, being forced to make a buyout offer for its shares.

The restructuring was thrown into crisis after Singaporean authorities announced a wide-ranging investigation of the company’s accounting the week before the debt revamp was due to be completed. Noble has been dogged for years by claims that its accounts have been unreliable, especially in relation to the valuation of gains on some long-term contracts. Those accusations have routinely been denied by the trader.

Authorities said Nov. 20 that they’re investigating suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements, as well as potential non-compliance with accounting standards by Noble Resources International Pte Ltd.

Noble Cooperation

The delay was necessary “due to the additional time required to fully address all concerns of the regulators and to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders continue to be protected,” the company said in a statement Sunday. Noble “is continuing to fully and constructively cooperate with the authorities in their investigation.”

It said it’s also appointing experts to assist in responding to the technical accounting issues raised by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

In a separate statement, authorities said they’d been working since 2015 to gather and review information to establish a basis to probe deeper into the case. It was the review of information relating to writedowns announced in late 2017 and 2018 as well as other information that provided the basis for authorities to commence overt investigations into potential breaches of law.

The probe is being conducted by the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force; the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s de facto central bank; and the ACRA.

The once $12 billion company has lost billions in value since Iceberg Research, run by a Noble ex senior credit analyst named Arnaud Vagner, published a report in 2015 claiming that the trading house’s long-term contracts were probably overvalued. The company has been reduced to a rump by untenable debt and writedowns.

Read more: Singapore’s probe of Noble accounts comes at 11th hour: timeline

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