Noble Group under probe for suspected false, misleading statements, Latest Business News - The New Paper

Noble Group under probe for suspected false, misleading statements

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Three agencies jointly investigating company for suspected false and misleading statements

Singapore authorities are investigating Noble Group for suspected false and misleading statements, just days before the Singapore-listed company was to complete its US$3.5 billion (S$4.8 billion) debt restructuring deal to prevent its collapse.

Noble, once Asia's top commodity trader, has seen its market value all but wiped out from US$6 billion in February 2015 after its accounting was questioned by Iceberg Research.

To rescue itself, Noble has shrunk its business by selling billions of dollars of assets, taking hefty write-downs and cutting hundreds of jobs.

It has also been defending its accounting.

The company, whose shares were suspended from trading from Monday due to the restructuring, is seeking to transform into an Asia-focused coal-trading business and list the overhauled business.

In a statement yesterday, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) said they were jointly investigating Noble for suspected violations of securities and company laws.

The probe also covers potential non-compliance with accounting standards by Noble Resources International (NRI), a fully-owned Singapore-based subsidiary of Noble.

"CAD and MAS have directed Noble Group and NRI to produce documents relating to the preparation of Noble Group's financial statements," the authorities said in the statement.


They said this follows a thorough review of other relevant information, including information referred to authorities by the Singapore Exchange's regulatory arm and other third parties.

Noble did not provide a comment to a Reuters query about the Singapore authorities' statement.

The Singapore Exchange's regulatory unit said it will review if the investigations will impact the financial statements already disclosed by Noble Group related to its restructuring.

"Trading can only start after restructuring has been completed and this is in turn dependent on our review," it said.

The CAD, MAS and Acra also said they were looking into breaches of disclosure requirements by Noble.

Acra said it had informed NRI's board of directors of the suspected breaches of the Companies Act and that it must provide further information.

"This follows an extensive review of the financial statements of NRI for the financial years ended 31 December 2012 to 31 December 2016," the statement said.- REUTERS