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Noble Group Falls After Quarterly Profit Slumps: Singapore Mover

May 15 (Bloomberg) -- Noble Group Ltd., Asia’s largest publicly traded commodity trader by sales, dropped by the most in six months in Singapore after reporting a 62 percent slump in first-quarter profit.

Noble fell 4.5 percent to S$1.065 as of 10:41 a.m. local time, the biggest decline since Nov. 14, after saying yesterday earnings were dragged down by a loss at its agricultural unit. The stock’s decline compared with the 0.2 percent gain in the benchmark Straits Times index.

The Hong Kong-based company said yesterday net income was $41.3 million in the three months ended March 31, down from $110.1 million a year earlier. The results were weighed down by a $66.6 million operating loss at its agricultural unit, Noble said yesterday.

“Problems in its agricultural segment persist,” James Koh, an analyst at Maybank Kim Eng Holdings Ltd. in Singapore, said in a note today. “While we expect this segment to improve as the year goes on, earnings expectations now look too optimistic and structural issues of low sugar prices will continue to hurt.”

He cut his recommendation for the stock from to hold from buy.

“Noble continues to build out its sugar milling capacity in line with earlier guidance, while we expect our agricultural segment to gain momentum as we move into the main harvest periods,” Chief Executive Officer Yusuf Alireza said in a statement yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Yun in Hong Kong at myun11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net

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