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Noble Group denies it is enriching management at expense of shareholders

The board of directors of embattled Noble Group has responded to criticism from shareholder Goldilocks Investment Company which has suggested the Singapore-listed commodities firm has engaged in market manipulation, negligent misstatements and minority oppression over the last two years.

“The Board is acutely aware that its actions and public statements have been under the regulatory microscope for the period in question,” Noble stated in a release to the Singapore Exchange.

“The allegations that Management are enriching themselves at the expense of shareholders are unfounded,” the statement continued, referring to the company’s recently announced restructuring plan which sees management given a 10% holding of the listed company.

Noble has turned down a request from Goldilocks for two seats at the board of the Hong Kong-headquartered company.

On Monday Noble revealed it had come to an agreement with creditors to restructure $3.5bn of its debt in exchange for 70% of the company, with existing equity holders’ combined stake diluted to only 10%.

The restructuring has been greeted with a lukewarm response by investors and analysts.

“If successful, the transaction will constitute a distressed debt exchange, which is a default event under Moody’s definition,” Gloria Tsuen, a Moody’s vice president and senior analyst, said in a statement.

Noble was founded in 1986 by Richard Elman. It has been in trouble since 2015 when Iceberg Research started questioning its accounts. The group’s market value has tumbled from more than $6bn to less than $250m today.

Arch-critic Iceberg Research’s latest comments on Noble’s restructuring are scathing with the analysts saying Noble management has been given additional incentives to manipulate earnings.

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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