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Noble Group's CEO resigns in surprise move

May 30, 2016

Embattled commodity trader Noble Group (NOBG.SI) announced the surprise resignation of CEO Yusuf Alireza on Monday and said it planned to sell a U.S. unit to bolster its balance sheet as it seeks to regain investor confidence.

Alireza, a former Goldman Sachs banker had steered Asia’s biggest commodity trader to sell assets, cut business lines and take big writedowns as it battled weak commodity markets and the fallout from an accounting dispute.

“With this transformation process now largely complete, Mr. Alireza considered that the time was right for him to move on,” Noble said in a statement.

It appointed senior executives William Randall and Jeff Frase as co-chief executive officers and said it would begin a sale process for Noble Americas Energy Solutions, “expected to generate both significant cash proceeds and profits to substantially enhance the balance sheet.”

Noble came under the spotlight in February last year when it was accused by Iceberg Research of overstating its assets by billions of dollars, claims which Noble rejected.

Its shares have since plunged by about 75 percent and its debt costs have risen as the company has been hit hard by credit rating downgrades and weak investor confidence.

“The first task is to stabilize the situation and convey stability and continuity,” said Nirgunan Tiruchelvam, an analyst at Religare Capital Markets. “That would be the immediate task of somebody in this business which has volatility,” he said.

Noble won the backing of banks earlier this month to refinance its debt.

In February, Noble reported its first annual loss since 1998, battered by a $1.2 billion writedown for weak coal prices. The company’s shares slumped 65 percent last year, knocking it out of the benchmark Straits Times index .STI.

By Anshuman Daga

Source: Reuters

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