Noble Group's lenders in talks on $2 billion credit line: FT

(Reuters) - Noble Group’s main banks are in talks to decide whether to give the commodity trader an extension on its credit line or force it into a restructuring or liquidation, the Financial Times newspaper said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: An employee is reflected on the wall as she walks past a signage of Noble Resources, a Noble Group subsidiary, at their premises in Singapore March 6, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

Banks including HSBC, Societe Generale, ABN Amro, Citigroup and ING have appointed legal advisers to consider the case for extending the $2 billion line of credit so the company can continue searching for an investor to recapitalize the business, the FT said.

Banks have hired consultants Alvarez & Marsal, who are assessing the collateral pledged by Noble against the credit line, the FT said, citing sources with knowledge of the discussions.

Hong Kong-based Noble’s main lenders have appointed law firm Clifford Chance to advise them on the next step for credit facilities, one source said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Kirkland & Ellis said it had been hired by Noble as legal counsel.

Last month, Reuters reported that Noble was negotiating with banks to roll over a $2 billion credit facility, secured on its inventories and working capital. The facility is due to be rolled over by the end of June. Noble has already drawn about $620 million cash from the one-year facility.

In May, Noble said that it was in talks with core participant banks about a new borrowing base facility which would again feature a cash draw-down component.

Clifford Chance, Citigroup, ING and Noble Group declined to comment. HSBC, Societe Generale and ABN Amro did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside regular business hours.

“I think it is likely that (Noble) will get some extension (to the credit line) but it all depends on how much the lenders believe in the credibility of management and its plans,” an executive at one of Noble’s lenders was quoted as telling the FT.

Noble has struggled ever since Iceberg Research questioned its accounts in early 2015, during a brutal downturn in commodity markets. The company has stood by its accounts.

But the share price collapsed and credit rating downgrades, management upheavals and a series of writedowns, asset sales and a fundraising ensued.

Noble’s market value has shrunk to just over $300 million from $6 billion in February 2015. The company reported a surprise quarterly loss of $129.3 million for January-March.

Reporting by Sangameswaran S in BENGALURU and Carol Zhong in HONG KONG; Additional reporting by Anshuman Daga in SINGAPORE; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Stephen Coates