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Noble restructuring approved, chairman to step down

Noble Group lives to fight another day. Shareholders in the Singapore-listed commodities company voted today to approve a $3.5bn debt restructuring plan that will allow the Hong Kong firm to carry on trading.

The New Noble, as it has been christened, is a far cry from the group’s heyday when it was Asia’s largest commodities company, worth more than $11bn. The restructuring plan will see Noble hand over 70% of the equity to senior creditors, 10% to management and the rest to existing shareholders.

At the special general meeting convened today, Noble’s chairman, Paul Brough, revealed he will be stepping down. Brough, a veteran of a number of sizeable restructurings, was brought in as chairman of troubled Noble in May last year.

At the shareholder meeting, Brough admitted getting Noble back on track had been a massive challenge and he will relinquish the chairmanship of the company soon.

“I have a particular set of skills that have been tested to the limits with this restructuring. Once restructuring is completed, we need a chairman with deep industry knowledge as this industry can be complicated,” Brough said.

Noble’s woes started in 2015 when a former employee, Arnaud Vagner, started publishing a series of articles likening the company’s accounting practices to bust US oil company, Enron.

Vagner said today that despite the shareholder approval a number of securities holders are looking to sue Noble. He said he also expected the scheme of arrangement to be challenged in court.

“This was expected but will not stop the lawsuits for the fraud,” Vagner’s told Splash today, commenting on the crucial shareholder vote.

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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