Singapore Regulator to Review Iceberg Report on NobleAndy Hoffman and Jonathan Burgos
Singapore’s financial regulator said it’s assessing a report by Iceberg Research that alleged accounting irregularities at Noble Group Ltd. Shares in the commodity trader rose.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore will review the report and “take appropriate action if there are breaches” of the Securities & Futures Act, it said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg News. Noble has denied Iceberg’s allegations. Directors and management are “comfortable” that the company’s balance sheet “fairly presents its book value” under International Financial Reporting Standards, Hong Kong-based Noble said in a statement on Tuesday.
Noble shares gained 1.9 percent to S$1.07 at the close of shortened trading in Singapore. The stock plunged almost 13 percent over the past two trading sessions after the report by previously-unknown Iceberg alleged the value of stakes in companies including a 13 percent interest in Yancoal Australia Ltd. were inflated on Noble’s balance sheet.
“The carrying value of our associates, including Yancoal, are tested for impairment using discounted cash-flow models that are updated every quarter,” Noble said in the statement. Valuations for Yancoal and other investments are “currently being audited” as part of the 2014 fiscal-year audit, the company said.
Iceberg, which provided no telephone number or street address in its Feb. 15 report, said the gap between Noble’s balance sheet carrying valuation for Yancoal and the market value differs by $600 million.
Noble “exploits the accounting treatment of its associates to avoid large impairments and fabricate profit,” Iceberg said in the report.
Iceberg’s website contains no analyst names or links to research notes, apart from the 17-page report on Noble. Iceberg said it doesn’t have any position in Noble’s securities and doesn’t work in tandem with funds.
Noble, which trades metals, coal and other commodities, said it has “interests in associates on its balance sheet at levels that may be higher or lower than that which is observable from the market-traded price.” The balance sheet as of the end of 2014 will be included in its full-year results, due for release on Feb. 26, the company said.
Iceberg alleged Noble misled investors regarding the performance of its Noble Agri Ltd. agriculture unit. The report said Noble’s 2014 sale of a 51 percent stake in that business to China’s COFCO and a group of investors will result in proceeds lower than the $1.5 billion reported by the company.
Noble said it has received $1.5 billion in sale proceeds for the 51 percent stake sale and a loan repayment from Noble Agri of $1.8 billion in October.
“Contrary to Iceberg’s allegations, we did not mislead the market in any way about the performance of NAL,” Noble said in the statement.
Noble also said allegations regarding its palm-oil assets are “factually incorrect.” Licenses and permits for palm assets in Mimika in Indonesia’s Papua Province are in order and supported by the Director-General of Plantations at the Ministry of Agriculture, the company said.
Iceberg had said that Noble will have trouble selling its palm-oil business after an Indonesian local government revoked the license for one of its subsidiaries there.