By Anshuman Daga
SINGAPORE - Commodities trader Noble Group has finalised a restructuring agreement with a group of senior creditors holding 46 percent of its debt, and is in talks with others, as it races to launch a deal crucial to its survival.
The embattled firm has been negotiating a $3.4 billion debt-for-equity swap for months, after selling billions of dollars of assets, taking hefty writedowns and cutting hundreds of jobs over the past three years.
Noble's Restructuring Support Agreement (RSA) has been signed by creditors known as the Ad Hoc Group and the firm is seeking support from another senior creditor, Deutsche Bank, and trade finance provider, ING Bank, Noble said in a statement on Wednesday.
Joseph Swanson, senior managing director at Houlihan Lokey, financial advisor to the Ad Hoc Group, said in a statement that the signing of the RSA was a landmark moment for Noble, and the Ad Hoc Group was looking forward to getting consent from creditors outside the core group.
Noble said the Ad Hoc Group was also in contact with other senior creditors who were holding an additional 15 percent of claims and had indicated their broad support for the deal.
Noble is seeking to halve its senior debt and hand over 70 percent of the restructured business to the Ad Hoc Group. It said on Wednesday that existing equity holders could be diluted to 15 percent, marking an improvement for equity holders from earlier discussions of the deal. Company management could end up owning 15 percent or less.
The company also said its board has agreed to start the process to move Noble's "centre of main interests from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom, subject to appropriate tax and other due diligence."
It said it would make the move during restructuring to make it easier to develop an alternative plan if one is needed.
Noble's debt restructuring deal has been opposed by some bondholders and shareholders such as Goldilocks Investment Co, an Abu Dhabi Financial Group equity fund.
Noble said Deutsche Bank has signed the RSA, and ING Bank was in the process of signing it. Together, they represent 4 percent of Noble's claims.
(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Tom Hogue)