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Opinion

Asia commodity traders: What’s at stake with the Noble restructuring?

There's been a stay of execution, but for how long?

Even by its own elevated standards, Noble Group had a busy week in late November.

On November 20, several branches of the Singapore state announced they were investigating the troubled commodity trader for suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements.

Paul-Brough 160x186
Paul Brough,
Noble Group

Noble’s $3.5 billion debt restructuring, which has been under tireless and acrimonious negotiation for more than a year, was due to be completed by a deadline of November 27. But at the last moment, Noble said it had been granted a two-week extension to December 11 to respond to the concerns of regulators. Noble got to breathe again ­– though not necessarily for very long.

What’s at stake here? Noble chair Paul Brough has described the deal as “probably the most complex restructuring ever taken in Asia”, and he’s right. It’s certainly a matter of considerable concern to creditors, who include Deutsche Bank and ING.

The whole thing is in limbo now because the restructuring can’t go ahead without the SGX giving consent for the post-restructuring entity to be re-listed; and the SGX won’t give that consent until after it has completed its review.

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