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'I was vindicated a long time ago,' says Iceberg's Arnaud on Noble probe

Iceberg Research's Arnaud Vagner ought to be having his moment now, after three years of tirelessly slamming the Noble Group and being called a "disgruntled" ex-employee (a label he disputes).
Now that Noble's relisting has been called off on the back of a probe by the Singapore authorities into uncertainties in its financial position, the French national appears more pleased about being able to move on and "expose" other targets.
Asked by The Business Times what was next for him, he replied in the phone interview: "The next step now is to do my job with other companies ... move on from this very time-consuming story."
He said that the ongoing, unprecedented probe into the Noble also "opens the door" for the legal challenge being organised by Iceberg Research against Noble to take place in Singapore instead of in the UK.
"It's something for the lawyers to decide...whether to come to Singapore or not. UK still remains an option,…

Noble plans to complete restructuring via alternative process

Commodity trader Noble Group intends to press on with its restructuring through an alternative process, and may be seeking court-appointed administration, it said in a statement yesterday.
This comes a day after the authorities here refused to allow the embattled company to transfer its listing status to New Noble as part of its US$3.5 billion (S$4.8 billion) debt restructuring plan, citing potentially inflated assets.
In a filing to the Singapore Exchange, Noble said it is disputing Singapore regulators' allegations of improper accounting, and intends to submit a "comprehensive response" to assessments and questions by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).
Regulators started investigating Noble two weeks ago for suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements.
Yesterday, Noble said it plans to complete its restructuring to "preserve value for all stakeholders", but in a way that does not involve the transf…
Commodities trader Noble Group is disputing allegations of possible accounting irregularities by regulators, who have relied on those potential inaccuracies to block a key step in the company's restructuring plans.
Noble, in a filing to the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Friday, defended some of its accounting practices that it said had been challenged by Singapore's Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra). The issues highlighted included its derivative treatment of variable marketing contracts, its recognition of gains and losses, its treatment of overhead costs and its classification of current and non-current assets.
The company said that it will submit a comprehensive response to Acra's assessments and questions.
Noble also said that investigations by Singapore authorities are not targeting any individuals from the company.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), one of the three regulators involved in the probe, told The Business Times (BT) that its scru…

Best World COO lauds new China strategy as share price surges

Best World International has begun to see the benefits of changing its business model in China, and is making positive progress in other key markets, the company's chief operating officer told The Business Times.
Those comments came as shares of the skincare maker and distributor reached a record high on Friday to extend a months-long run.
On the stock market, the counter added seven Singapore cents or 2.8 per cent to S$2.59, as more than 3.3 million shares traded hands. The stock has risen 97 per cent year-to-date, nearly doubling in value.
"I guess it's got to do with the fundamentals," Best World's Huang Ban Chin said in a phone interview.
"We don't really pay too much attention to the share price but I believe it's because we have commenced our franchise business model which is a replacement for our previous export model (in China)."
He said that the company's third-quarter net profit of S$29.9 million - a 145 per cent year-on-year incr…

Noble - too much faith in a ‘clean’ audit?

Singapore authorities finally took action on Tuesday to probe locally listed Noble Group, more than three years after the first reports of accounting irregularities surfaced at the Hong Kong-based commodities trader.
Explaining why it took three years before they commenced investigations, Singapore’s white-collar crime buster Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) said there had been no reasonable grounds to move in, until recently.
This does not mean they have not been doing anything. The three bodies had been working together since 2015, when Iceberg Research first flagged potential irregularities and questionable accounting practices at Noble, and when US short-seller Muddy Waters weighed in, questioning Noble’s finances and unsustainable debt levels. All allegations and claims were denied by Noble, which boasted of clean audit opinions issued by auditors from 2014 to 2016. While r…

Noble's restructuring hangs in the balance amid investigations

One day after Singapore regulators launched an unprecedented tripartite probe into troubled Noble Group for suspected breaches of securities laws and accounting practices, there appears no clarity on whether the commodity group will be able to forge ahead with its hard-fought debt rescue plan or it risks being upended.
Noble, for one, seemed confident, stating in an early Wednesday announcement that the proposed restructuring is in the best interests of all stakeholders and that it will work towards implementing it "within the previously disclosed timelines".
That may be overly optimistic as the new Noble - a crunched down version of old Noble that was once Asia's top commodity trader but sold billions of dollars of assets as it tottered on hefty debts - is expected to be listed in less than a week on the Singapore Exchange, an event that was set to mark the fruition of a protracted and acrimonious US$3.5 billion debt revamp to save the Hong Kong-based firm.
"It…

SGX tells Innopac to engage valuer for businesses it plans to sell

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) has ordered Innopac Holdings' audit committee to engage a reputable valuer to assess businesses that the company plans to sell at a sharp discount to their potential net tangible value, Innopac said in an exchange filing on Thursday.
Innopac, an investment holding company, said in October that it would dispose of its stakes in a number of businesses to Innopac chief executive Wong Chin Yong for S$100,000. In response to SGX queries, Innopac said on Nov 5 that it would not engage a valuer due to cost issues.
But in a fresh round of queries, SGX raised concerns about how Innopac was valuing the businesses being sold. Two of those businesses, Wang Da Investments and Heritage Corp, have a net tangible liability of S$11.45 million. The rest of the businesses that are being sold, including a microalgae joint venture, have a total net tangible asset (NTA) value of S$9.16 million. If Innopac liquidated Wang Da and Heritage instead of selling them with the oth…

SGX orders Innopac to engage valuer on businesses it plans to sell

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) has ordered Innopac Holdings' audit committee to engage a reputable valuer to assess businesses that the company plans to sell at a sharp discount to their potential net tangible value.
In October, Innopac, an investment holding company, said that it would dispose of its stakes in a number of businesses to Innopac chief executive Wong Chin Yong for S$100,000. On Nov 5, Innopac said in response to SGX queries that it would not engage a valuer due to costs.
But in a fresh round of queries, SGX raised concerns about how Innopac was valuing the businesses being sold. Two of those businesses, Wang Da Investents and Heritage Corp, have a net tangible liability (NTL) of S$11.45 million. The rest of the businesses that are being sold, including a microalgae joint venture, have a total net tangible asset (NTA) value of S$9.16 million. If Innopac liquidated Wang Da and Heritage instead of selling them with the other businesses, it would not have to offset the o…

SGX moves to T+2 securities settlement cycle starting Dec 10

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) will launch a new securities settlement and depository framework and system on Dec 10, which will reduce settlement cycles from three to two days (T+2) and enable simultaneous settlement of money and securities.
In a press release on Tuesday, SGX said that the T+2 settlement cycle will synchronise the Singapore bourse with global markets including Australia, the European Union, Hong Kong and the US.
"Come Dec 10, we will align our securities clearing and settlement processes with global standards, strengthening Singapore's position as an international financial centre," said Chew Sutat, executive vice-president and head of equities and fixed income at SGX.
"With the new settlement and depository framework, securities and funds will be made available to investors earlier, while reducing risks across systems and markets. Our new system will also enable us and our securities members to enhance services for the market."
Improvements in…

SGX Regco proposes to raise safeguards on voluntary delisting rules

SINGAPORE Exchange Regulation (SGX Regco) is proposing to disallow offerors and parties acting in concert from voting on voluntary delistings and with that, to lower the approval threshold from 75 per cent to a simple majority of independent shareholders.
The proposed changes - aimed at better aligning the interests of all parties and chiefly to safeguard minority interests - also include scrapping the 10 per cent block provision. Under this provision, a delisting will not proceed if it is voted against by those who hold more than 10 per cent).
In a media briefing, SGX Regco chief executive Tan Boon Gin admitted that the episode involving Vard Holdings had catalysed the need for such changes as it underscored the “constraints” in the existing safeguards.
“What the Vard case illustrates is that if a company has inactive minority investors, then the safeguards work against minorities and work in favour of the offeror. We realise that this needed our attention and had to be rectified,” …

SGX imposes fine, education programme on UOBKH trader for misconduct

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Thursday issued a circular saying that its Disciplinary Committee had, on Sept 6, heard four charges against UOB Kay Hian (UOBKH) trading representative Seow Jin Yuan Reymond for contravening exchange rules.
Mr Seow, unrepresented by legal counsel at the hearing, took on the case himself.
The first charge alleged that in March and April 2017, he failed to follow the principles of good business practice in the conduct of his business affairs, and executed pre-arranged trades in the shares of GSH Corporation in the unit share market.
On March 28 for instance, he pre-arranged for the buy orders of an unnamed entity to be fully matched with the sell orders of his elder brother, resulting in the execution of 100,000 GSH shares at the volume-weighted average price (VWAP) of S$0.565.
On April 4, he again pre-arranged for the buy orders of the unnamed entity to be fully matched with the sell orders of his brother. This involved transacting 230,000 GSH shares …