Noble Group Probed by Singapore Authorities for False, Misleading Statements

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The Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority are investigating Noble for suspected false and misleading statements as well as breaches of disclosure requirements under the city-state’s laws.

The authorities are also looking into potential non-compliance with accounting standards by Noble’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Noble Resources International (NRI), according to their joint statement today.

The investigation follows an extensive review of NRI's financial statements for the financial years ended Dec 31, 2012 and Dec 31, 2016, according to the statement.

The authorities’ joint announcement came a day after the shares in Noble Group, once Asia's top commodity trader, were suspended from trading amid the company's efforts to transform itself into an Asia-focused coal-trading business after a US$3.5 billion debt restructuring deal.

Noble has seen its market value all but wiped out from $6 billion in February 2015 after its accounting was questioned by Iceberg Research. In an effort to rescue itself, Noble has shrunk its business by selling billions of dollars of assets, taking hefty writedowns and cutting hundreds of jobs, while defending its accounting.

Noble said recently that it had cleared the final hurdle to complete its controversial debt-for-equity swap by obtaining all required approvals including an okay nod from courts for its restructuring and payment to creditors.

The company was also required by creditors to halve its debt and give 70% ownership to creditors—most of which are hedge funds. Existing equity holders as a result are left with only 20% ownership of the firm after restructure.

Noble Group said in a statement on Wednesday that it would continue with its plans to restructure despite the investigation.

The firm added that it and its unit Noble Resources International had received correspondences from Singaporean authorities regarding their investigation into suspected false and misleading statements made by the companies and would fully cooperate with the authorities in their investigation.