Noble Group Buys Back Bonds as Prices Hit Lows on Downgrades

Noble Group Ltd. bought back more of its own bonds at near-record lows after rating companies cut its credit score below investment grade in the past month.

The Singapore-listed commodity trader repurchased $31.6 million of its January 2020 notes and $1 million of its March 2018 debentures, according to a filing Thursday. The buyback reduced the outstanding debt to $1.18 billion and $379 million, respectively. The group redeemed its $250 million of August 2020 callable bonds in August, bought back $20 million of the 2018 notes in April and $41.5 million of the January 2020 notes in August 2012, according to company filings.

Standard & Poor’s cut Noble Group’s rating to BB+, or one level below investment grade, on Jan. 7, a week after Moody’s Investors Service lowered its score to the Ba1 junk level. Fitch Ratings maintained its evaluation at the lowest investment grade of BBB-.

The 6.75 percent 2020 notes jumped 1.5 cents to 45.5 cents on the dollar as of 3:40 p.m. in Hong Kong, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg, and hitting an all-time low of 40.2 cents on Jan. 21. The 3.625 percent 2018 notes rose 1.3 cents to 46.7 cents. Both securities have declined about 18 cents since Dec. 31.

Noble Group shareholders on Thursday approved the sale of its 49 percent stake in Noble Agri Ltd. to China’s Cofco Corp. for at least $750 million, a deal it said will help improve its liquidity and creditworthiness. The Chinese food company bought a 51 percent stake from Noble Group for $1.5 billion in 2014.

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