Noble Quarterly Profit Slumps 62% on Agricultural Unit

(Corrects date and timeframe in third paragraph.)

Noble Group Ltd. (NOBL), Asia’s largest publicly traded commodity supplier by sales, said first-quarter profit plunged 62 percent, weighed down by a loss at its agricultural unit.

Net income was $41.3 million in the three months ended March 31, from $110.1 million a year earlier, the Hong Kong-based company said today in a statement. Sales slid 1 percent to $22.6 billion.

The company reported a loss of $66.6 million from supply chains in the quarter at its agricultural business and said it had cut expenses and finance costs in the period. When asked on a conference call on Feb. 28 about earnings drivers for the coming six to 12 months, Chief Executive Officer Yusuf Alireza said one of the drivers of the company’s performance “going forward” would be a recovery at its agricultural unit and potential growth opportunities across all its businesses.

“We continue to execute on our strategy, moving to an asset-light model and strengthening our balance sheet while selectively investing to build future origination volumes across our diversified product platforms,” CEO Alireza said in a separate statement today. “In a difficult market environment, our efforts to control costs and focus on core business competencies are starting to have an impact.”

Shares advanced 0.2 percent to S$1.115 at the close in Singapore. The announcement was made after the end of trade. The stock is down 3.5 percent this year, compared with the 8.4 percent increase in the benchmark Straits Times index.

Noble is committed to being “light” on asset ownership, CEO Alireza said in February. The company, which also said that month it will sell a stake in its palm unit to Wilmar International Ltd. (WIL), continues to review asset-sale opportunities, Chief Financial Officer Robert Van Der Zalm said in February.

Revenue at its agricultural unit dropped 12 percent, the company said today. Sales at its energy unit, its biggest, also declined 10 percent to $14.6 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Yun in Hong Kong at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at

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