Apr 10, 2015

    Noble hits back over Muddy Waters' claims


    ASIAN commodity trading giant Noble Group hit back yesterday, after United States short-seller Muddy Waters accused the firm of existing "solely to borrow and burn cash", in an attack that saw its shares dive.

    It follows earlier allegations of irregular accounting practices at the Hong Kong-based company.

    "The management completely rejects the allegations," Noble said in a brief statement to the Singapore stock exchange - where the company is listed - responding to the Muddy Waters report.

    The statement said the company was "studying the report in detail".

    Noble's share prices tumbled on the Singapore Exchange, closing 5.5 per cent lower at 86 Singapore cents after falling by as much as 9.3 per cent, following Muddy Waters' disclosure that it was taking a short position on the company.

    Muddy Waters described Noble as "complex and opaque" in its report.

    "It becomes a question of how much investors should trust Noble's management to be straight with them," it added.

    A public relations officer for Noble said he could make no further comment when contacted by Agence France-Presse.

    Muddy Waters was also behind a 2012 attack on Singapore-based farm commodities supplier Olam.

    Olam's shares prices tumbled after Muddy Waters alleged the company was in danger of insolvency.

    But Olam weathered the storm after Singapore's powerful state investment agency Temasek Holdings backed the firm.

    Last month, Noble said it would sue one of its former analysts, whom it alleged damaged the company by spreading "false and misleading information".

    It made the allegations in a writ filed to a Hong Kong court.

    The legal action followed a series of reports by little-known Iceberg Research alleging irregular accounting practices at Noble, though the company did not elaborate on any link between the two in the court filing.

    Iceberg said Noble understated its debts and alleged that profits were inflated.

    Noble also refuted those claims.

    "Iceberg are not the independent research house they claim to be. Their actions, and their timing, have been calculated primarily to inflict damage rather than to facilitate the distribution of research," Noble said in a statement last month.