January 22, 2018 / 7:27 AM / a month ago

Chinese group shows interest to buy commodity merchant Noble: Bloomberg

(Reuters) - Chinese conglomerate Cedar Holdings Group has shown interest in buying Singapore’s troubled commodities trader Noble Group, Bloomberg reported on Monday citing people familiar with the matter.

Noble’s shares rose as much as 37 percent, for which the Singapore stock exchange raised a query with the company.

Noble noted the Bloomberg article and said it continued to be in talks with “various potential strategic parties and its creditors”. Cedar declined to comment on the matter.

Hong-Kong headquartered, Singapore-listed Noble was once Asia’s biggest commodity merchant, with ambitions to rival European industry leaders like Vitol or Glencore.

But it was plunged into crisis in 2015 over questions about its accounting, which resulted in sharp share price falls and credit downgrades. Noble has refuted such criticism.

Financial woes led to Noble’s retreat from most financial commodity markets, including oil and natural gas.

It has sold off some of its units to direct competitors, including Vitol and Mercuria.

Its share price has collapsed almost totally from its peak of S$17.57 in 2011, resulting in a market capitalization of just S$272 million ($205.84 million) on Monday. Noble shares are currently trading at S$0.27.

The company’s $750 million 8.75 percent bonds, due March 2022, were quoted at a bid price of 44.25, up half a point.

This is equivalent to a yield of 35.4 percent, meaning the firm’s bonds remain distressed as bondholders expect to recover less than half their investments.

Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Muyu Xu in Beijing and Daniel Stanton in Singapore; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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