May 15, 2018 / 9:46 AM / 10 months ago

Noble Group business hit by weak funding despite smaller first quarter loss

FILE PHOTO: The company logo of Noble Group is displayed at its office in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Embattled commodities trader Noble Group Ltd (NOBG.SI) reported a smaller quarterly net loss as it enters a make-or-break phase ahead of shareholder meetings and legal rulings over the next few weeks that will decide the company’s fate.

Once Asia’s largest commodity house, Singapore-listed Noble has shrunk its business after selling billions of dollars of assets, taking hefty writedowns and cutting hundreds of jobs over the past three years to raise funds and slash debt. On Tuesday, Noble posted a net loss of $72 million in the January to March period versus a loss of $129 million a year ago, although revenue fell 37 percent to $1.2 billion.

The company said that though global commodity prices strengthened in the first quarter, “the group’s performance continues to be impacted by the ongoing constraints on liquidity and availability of trade finance to support its operations.”

Noble was plunged into crisis in February 2015 when Iceberg Research questioned its books, and its market value has collapsed since then to barely $80 million from $6 billion.

The company has defended its accounting and is seeking approval from shareholders to halve its $3.4 billion debt in return for handing over 70 percent of equity to senior creditors, mostly a group of hedge funds.

Abu Dhabi-based Goldilocks Investment Co Ltd, which holds 8.1 percent in Noble is resisting the proposal and has filed complaints and lawsuits against Noble, arguing that the plan protects creditors at the expense of shareholders.

Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Tom Hogue

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