(Bloomberg) Noble Group Ltd. denied inflating the balance-sheet value of contracts as Asia’s biggest commodities trading house published a rebuttal against allegations by Iceberg Research, an anonymous group that’s questioned the company’s accounting methods. Noble’s shares rose.
In an 11-page report, the company also provided more information about the ex-employee it believes is behind Iceberg, a previously unknown group that released the second of two reports on Feb. 25, criticizing the Hong Kong-based trader’s cash-flow and fair-value accounting.
That person told a current employee at the firm that he planned to publish a report in several parts on the company and was going to “work with short sellers to blow up Noble,” it said Thursday in the statement on its website.
Noble said Iceberg’s claim that $3.8 billion of fair-value gains are overstated and should be impaired was “false.” The gains “represent real value and are being realized,” and over the last three years about $800 million of cash from commodity contracts have been realized, it said.
“I’m sure these allegations have caused stress for you and your organizations and for that I would like to express my sincere regret,” Noble chief executive officer Yusuf Alireza said in comments addressed to stakeholders on the first page of the rebuttal. “Noble has come a long way over the last few years in terms of that transparency but more is required.”
Noble rose 3.5 percent to S$1.04 at 9:09 a.m. in Singapore. The shares have fallen almost 14 percent in Singapore trading since the Feb. 16 report.
Alireza said Noble would accelerate efforts to increase transparency after a “challenging” two weeks since Iceberg published its first report.
Fair-value gains related to assets and commodity contracts have increased the size of Noble’s balance sheet, rising to $7.4 billion at the end of 2014 from $4.8 billion at the end of 2013, Noble’s financial statements show. Iceberg’s allegation that Noble has manipulated the fair values of deals isn’t true, the company said.
Noble applies fair value for assets and contracts using methodologies that are applied through clear policies approved by its audit committee and based on International Financial Reporting Standards, it said.
“Values are not manipulated and the values are being recovered as the contracts roll off,” Noble said.
Iceberg’s claim that Noble incorrectly accounts for its 13 percent stake in Yancoal Australia Ltd. is also “false,” the company said. The trading company correctly values Yancoal as an “associate” on its balance sheet as it has “significant” influence over Yancoal through a board seat and offtake agreements, it said.
Alireza purchased 5 million Noble shares, according to a filing by the company with the Singapore Stock Exchange on Thursday. He joins Chairman Richard Elman and Noble board members who have bought stock since the first report was published.
Iceberg’s website contains no analyst names, phone numbers or links to research notes, apart from the two reports on Noble.
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