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Iceberg Research urges for management clear-out at Noble Group

In an open letter to Noble Group’s creditors, Iceberg Research has called for a clear out of top management to give the embattled Hong Kong firm a chance of survival. Iceberg Research are the team that kickstarted the downfall of the once mighty Asian commodities giant, publishing a series of exposés on accounting problems at Noble in the last couple of years during which time Noble’s revenues have slid from highs of $86bn to around $400m.

Adressing creditors, Iceberg Research stated in its open letter: “You suffered losses because a small group of people inside Noble and its auditor, EY, intentionally misrepresented the balance sheet and the performance of this company.”

It went on to cite how an associate, Yancoal, was overvalued by $480m or 48 times.

“Dozens of other assets were vastly overstated,” Iceberg Research claimed.

“You lost a fortune but a few people have thrived. For example the current CEO Will Randall, the former CEO Yusuf Alireza and a few others made dozens of millions. They are now excessively rich. We don’t know exactly how much because Noble still refuses to disclose their individual remunerations. When asked to justify this policy, Noble claims the disclosure would ‘hurt its standing’. ‘Its what?’, you may ask. Its standing… They have a standing at Noble. This is the corporate version of the middle finger and it is pointed at you and at the shareholders who lost everything,” the letter continued.

Noble’s auditor as well as the Singapore Exchange where it listed also came in for flack from Iceberg Research, who said creditors and shareholders alike had been “royally screwed”.

Noble’s restructuring plans do not go far enough, Iceberg Research insisted, demanding that the current CEO and the group’s chairman, Paul Brough step down.

“We fail to understand how a company led by incompetent management that has burnt $1.9bn in 3 years, recorded trading losses due to bad risk management, and paid itself sky-high salaries, etc. would be able to turn this business around,” Iceberg Research stated.

Noble is in the midst of a long running court battle with Iceberg Research.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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