Suitors circle Noble after commodity trader’s $1.8 billion market plunge

(Reuters) – Singapore-listed Noble Group’s 30 percent share-slump over the past month has thrust it on to the radar screens of Asian companies that want a bigger clout in global commodities trading, people familiar with the matter said. Chinese and Japanese companies have held informal talks with investment banks about potentially making approaches to Hong Kong-headquartered Noble, a Singapore-based banker aware of the matter told Reuters, even though founder and top shareholder Richard Elman has been keen on the group staying independent. Noble’s market value has shrunk by $1.8 billion since little-known Iceberg Research accused it in mid-February of inflating asset values by billions of dollars through aggressive accounting. Noble has rejected the claim and linked Iceberg to an employee it fired in 2013. Noble shares were up nearly 6 percent in early trade on Friday, valuing the company at about $4.4 billion, after the company announced that shareholder and British insurer Prudential PLC had increased its stake to just over 5 percent. Large companies that control the supply chain in raw materials such as Noble appeal to Chinese and Japanese firms that are looking to increase their pricing power and control costs in the commodities industry. “The stock slump … continue reading

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