Tag Archives: rating agencies

Banks Chasing the”tails” in Hong Kong -The Noble Group (來寶集團)

Noble Group (來寶集團) has no or few audited flow supporting their 48B$ sales of commodities.

According to the industry, their turnover, by any account, would appear as vastly overstated.

At an average of 10 days shipment and with cost of the goods sold of $48.58B FY16, the average inventory in transit recorded by Noble would have to be at least $1.256B. The the audited number was only $2.6M FY16.

FY2016 The average transit time of Noble was now 0,019 days, either implying that Noble has used scuds to ship the company  or that the corporation had a COGS inflated by 10 to 15 times in 2016.

Noble Group inventory in-transit

Noble Group Ltd. Financial Statements 31 December 2016

As of May 2017 the company had YTD losses (330) Millions in operating cash-flows but self-assessed itself with a net equity of $3.849B while of this net equity is tied to the fair value gains of its derivative and long-term commodity contracts.

Iceberg Research, the research firm has challenged Noble Group (來寶集團) over mark-to-market accounting of these contracts.

Bankers know that the last 24 months have been punctuated by a series of catastrophes, credit downgrades and bizarre resignations at Noble.

CEO ex-GS Alireza, Mr. Elman and Noble Group’s chief financial officer Robert van der Zalmin in particular who has stepped down from his position after taking a leave of absence for “health reasons”.

Traders (smart money) have also left at the right time. (Fabrizio,Steve Bader, Paolo B, Ted, Doug M..)

As of Q1-2017, Noble Group (來寶集團) had $3,4B of marked-to-market fair-value gains on derivatives and commodity contracts.

What does the $3.4B MtM figure represents ?-this MtM is not contracts that can be liquidated to cash.

noble group enron

Mark-to-market (M-t-M)

To mark-to-market is to calculate the value of a financial instrument (or portfolio of such instruments) at current market rates or prices of the underlying.


Example for illustrative purpose:

On 1 Jan 2017: Noble buys 2,000,000 MT for June 2019 delivery at $59/mt. It turns immediatly in the derivatives market and sells the equivalent of 2,000,000 MT of paper contracts. This is the Coal API2 Argus futures contracts.

This is the Coal API2 Argus Futures Contracts.



1 Jan 2017: Noble has a +MtM of 0 (Contract price is $59 and the Argus Futures is at $59)

1 Feb 2017: The Argus Coal API2 futures is at $64,25. The +MtM on the coal contract is +$10,5M

20 March 2017: The Argus API2 Futures dropped to $59,25/MT The +MtM on the coal contract is +$500K

1 May 2017: The Argus API2 settled at 62,55 and the +MtM on the coal contract is now +$7,1M

Noble Group MtM on Coal contract:

mtm coal noble group.png

The 2,000,000 MT of Coal produces a MtM gains between $500K and $11.5 millions.


Capezize Ship

In order to produce $3.4B of MtM gains one would have to buy not 2,000,000 MT of coal , as in this example, but nearly 958 million metric tons – the equivalent of 6937 Capezize cargoes Richards Bay-Qingdao, China or 5 voyages per week for the next 13 years… plus an equivalent position in the derivatives.

This represents a considerable tonnage even for the largest firms of the industry (Cargill, Rio Tinto, BHP, Vale, Anglo American) put all together.

According to BP statistical review of word energy 2016, the world coal production was 786.1 million tonnes (2015)…

An inevitable conclusion is that Noble uses a mountain of derivatives to maintain its MtM coal pile or … something else

Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the $3.4B MtM mark used by Noble Group(來寶集團)  translates to coal hedges at 479 USD/MT– The Argus APi2 CIF Rotterdam futures in the $60s/mt.

So…. Accounting fraud …. ?

Won’t  be the first time…

These days Noble is looking to refinance a $3.849B net equity. which has more the financial substance of a “Fair-value to-arrive equity” (sic)

This happens at a moment when Noble has just screwed up both its recent fixed income investors and shareholders.

The thing that frightens banks the most is not having a good risk management process in place because it opens the possibility of financial losses and frauds. A trader with no risk management is like playing roulette; double or quits.

Fraud is the worst nightmare for any bank specialized in commodity lending, but some will always chasing the“tails” in Hong Kong no matter what.

the Noble Files 高贵组文件 研究

Noble Group: Anatomy of a Zombie Trader

Noble Group Says Listing Top Execs’ Pay Would Hurt Its Standing…

Noble Group Ltd., the embattled commodity trader, has pushed back against guidelines in Singapore for disclosing information on executives’ remuneration.

What  would hurt more Noble Group’ standing than the compensation of their Managing Directors that the company has refused to advertise in an exchange query: It’s shaky financials.

Noble Group has booked gains on these contracts to the tune of 102% of shareholder equity as of April 2017.

The company has unrealistically booked large profits on long-dated contracts ($3.6B), the value of which relies on input assumptions that are not market-observable…

Two small things to worry about Noble’s are the valuation and the uncertainty of the cash realization of these gains.

One of these gains booked is on a 10 years offtake agreement with Sundance Resources (problem: it’s a junior Australian miner with production starting in 2019 (opps!)

Noble has repeated that these contracts were correctly valued. Then in 2016, 48 hours before the publication of their FY15 annual results, Ernst & Young suddenly realized that these contracts had to be impaired by $1.1b.

At least if you were a buyer, you would expect to pay for assets generating positive cash-flows.

Problem is that Noble Group has generated negative cash-flows from the operations to the tune of and -$1600M in 2014, -$600M in 2015, and -$900M in 2016 (and I also reckon that its cash flows from operations didn’t even covered the cash interests expense of its debt service in Q2-2016…)

Noble group has no intrinsic value (by DCF).

It remains difficult to value them and put a ballpark price but no, the current price share doesn’t reflect the accounting issues and net equity issues of the trader.

OCBC bank and many analysts at brokerage houses bave simply stopped the coverage the company. Compliance officers now refuse them to cover the company on reputational risk.

It is also said in the market that the company is likely also good candidate for a downgrade by S&P.

The trader has lost its access to their counter parties in the commodity market because of stricter limitations to deal with them now. (must put down collateral to execute trades that in the past required none)

If one wishes to be very conservative:

Exclude the $1.6B inventory from its liquidity it belongs not to shareholders but is used by Noble as the collateral to pony up $5B borrowings with the banks (because Noble Group also celebrates the envied 4th position among the top 10 commodity borrowers in the world…).

The cash realization of these gains:

Noble’s “Net Fair value on commodity and derivative instruments”. End FY 16, the net gain in fair value stands at 2,776,419,000 while end FY 15, it stood at 3,178,351,000.

Noble should have realized approximately 400,000,000 of gains, however cash flow shows its has only realized about 234,234,000 in gains (57% of the amount).

The valuation of these gains:

So one could conservatively remove the fair-value gains from Noble’s net equity computation, or give it a haircut of say 60%) when valuing the company.

Have you hear about something called inverse-leverage

The problem is that it cannot be done because a depreciation net fair value G/L gains on commodity contracts of -19% would render Noble Group insolvent and precipitate the Asian trader into liquidation.

The further that the coal API2 curve goes on the Bloomberg terminal is 5 years… I’m curious how does William Randall, Coal Kingpin Australian brainmaster of Noble Group pulls out a 30 years mark-to-market gains. what’s that !

Do people realize that IF Noble Group contracts were properly valued a long time ago a credentiate trader (such Castelton Commodities) or and investor (like Temasek) could have bought them out.

This said, the thought process at Noble isn’t very different from the rest of the industry peers (Glencore…)

e.g MDs in independent units, under minimal supervision have crafted positions that have bleed into outright wagers. With limited trading views, constantly fight the HQ to punt more working capital.

Their entrance in some commodity markets has been always marked by spectacular moves.

Their tactic has been volume is at any cost, throwing their weight around; (Noble Agri, Noble Americas…)

This has naturally created a pattern of brutal exits.