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Brightoil 'has no intention to acquire Noble Group'

Brightoil responds to reports suggesting it is interested in acquiring the commodity trading giant.

Updated on 26 Mar 2015 13:53 GMT

Hong Kong-listed Brightoil Petroleum (Holdings) Ltd. has officially denied that it is interested in acquiring commodity trading giant Noble Group.

In a statement, the company said this week: "In response to recent media reports which quoted a banker as saying that Brightoil Petroleum (Holdings) Limited ("Brightoil Petroleum" or the "Group"; stock code: 933.HK) could potentially be interested in acquiring Singapore-listed Noble Group Limited (stock code: NOBG.SI), Brightoil Petroleum clarifies that it has not contacted or negotiated with Noble Group Limited in relation to this issue and has no intention to acquire Noble Group Limited."

Brightoil is a physical bunker supplier in the Chinese ports of Qingdao, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Ningbo and Zhoushan. In 2014, the company was ranked as Singapore's 26th biggest supplier by volume in a list compiled by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) - having been third in 2012. It also has a strong presence in Rotterdam, Tanjung Pelepas and Hong Kong.

Singapore-listed Noble Group is Asia's biggest commodity trading firm by sales. Since the first of three reports were released by a group calling itself Iceberg Research on February 15, Noble's share price has plummeted 24 percent, closing yesterday at 91 Singapore cents per share.

The first of Iceberg's 'Noble Group, a repeat of Enron' reports, entitled 'Noble's Associates and Noble Agri', claimed - amongst other things - that "Noble exploits the accounting treatment of its associates to avoid large impairments and fabricate profit".

In the third report, entitled 'Governance and debt', released on March 21, Iceberg claims that there are an "impressive series of red flags" such as "key shareholders and staff leaving the company, 'negative assurances' taken off the website, the high number of reservations expressed by the auditor in the annual report". The document also claims that Noble "substantially understates both its gross and net debt".

The report adds: "Noble Group is a repeat of Enron. Both companies use similar actions in an attempt to deceive investors. Noble, like Enron, misrepresents the three components of its financials: income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements."

In a statement released on March 23 dismissing the Iceberg report, Noble said: "Noble Group Limited (“Company” or “Group”) refers to the statements made by Iceberg Research (“Iceberg”) in their three reports.

"We reject their allegations as inaccurate, unreliable and misleading.

"As a public company we support responsible research.

"However, 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.

"We recognise our responsibility to protect the interests of our investors and we are in constant dialogue with our business partners who have continued to show their strong support. Now that the third report has been issued, we have examined every aspect of all three reports with our lawyers.

"Later today we will start legal proceedings against Arnaud Vagner, a resident in Hong Kong, Enlighten Ace Ltd, a Seychelles company and any associates, at the Hong Kong High Court for conspiracy to injure Noble Group.

"The management have been, and will remain, focused on running the company."

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