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The burden of Karma is heavy as Noble crosses the gates of death.

Noble Group has the symptoms of schizophrenia. Their delusion and demise were never “their” fault or caused by the actions of “their” traders.

Caught in-between and dancing on losses, the high rollers have painted it as because of : “liquidity constraint impacting trading and earnings generation”. For Noble Group “the problem” must be the exact solution, they have punted for working capital everywhere from the MD&A to the Press/Investor Communication and Strategic Review…

The financial statements* for the six months ending on 30 June 2017 eloquently sums up the financial substance of Noble Group:

  • Noble presents itself as a  $2B net equity company with an $1,45 MtM unaudited Gains on Derivatives company*
  • The trader has -$763 million negative OCF with a net debt increased by nearly $1B to $3.81B.

* unaudited.

The Energy Segment accounts for 90% of Noble Revenues in 1H-2017.

Noble Group Business

Noble Group Limited Revenues by Segment, 1H-2017

The Energy Segment traded at a loss of $226 million during 1H-2017 (excluding financing costs and salaries).

That’s more than -$1.25 million per business day… Monday to Friday but the business is run smoothly. Of course no.

But in the world of Noble shortlisters rush on a “bargain” 🙂

.

“Sale of Global Oil Liquids Sales process commenced with shortlist of bidders–bids expected in Q3 2017”

-Strategic Review Update–26 July 2017

Noble nasty.png

 

Investor Presentation Q2-2017 P.6

Out of Control

The Non-Performance of Global Oil Liquids should not be that shocking knowing the “Book now, think later” at the company. It lacks the management to impart performance.

Noble had two or three large take-of-pay deals in the U.S but the wind has changed as it always does in the physical energy markets.

The burden of Karma is heavy as Noble crosses the gates of death:

The hostile work environment includes daily vulgar and disgusting comments from male employees about vaginas, sex, male genitalia, and verbally abusive language using the word ‘f—‘ explicitly. constant abuse.”*

During 2012-2016, at the office in Stamford, Plaintiff’s seat was next to the gasoline traders which includes video conference cameras connecting with London and Houston offices.

The commentary back and forth on the Stamford desk for everybody within earshot to hear, frequently became vulgar and disgusting. This created a hostile work environment.

*Ramos V Noble Americas Corporation.

It is the last tango act of an unprincipled trader-assaillant.

Noble did the financial engineering for years and years and then the showgame broke. The typical assumption of a 40% recovery rate may indeed be too optimistic.

PwC has signed Noble’s Financial Statements but performance has inevitably caught up the accounting gimmicks.

Noble Group has generated negative cash-flows from the operations to the tune of

-$1600M in 2014
-$600M in 2015
-$900M in 2016,
-330M for Q-1 2017

and -433M for Q2-2017

A Toxic Legacy

Net fair value gains now stands at $1.455 billion as of end-Jun 17. 

fairtoarrive net equity of $2B* is still rather delusional for a company not producing any plus-value -Noble is losing operating cashflows at a rate between -3.5 and -$6.5M per business day in the recent quarters.

*unaudited financial statements.

Noble’s position is irreparably compromised. 

Noble group has no intrinsic value (by Discounted Cash-Flows).

The firm offers no viable future for patient capital.

Their leverage futures-physical trading model has too much impediments to break-even.


The Noble Files 贵族档案

 

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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.

http://www.risk.net/definition/mark-market

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.

COAL API2.png

Timeline

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.

seanergy-maritime-capesize

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’s only escape is to borrow more debt to cover its debt service and booked net equity.

Like Wilmar, Noble had not 2 but 3 years to renovate itself and they failed.

  • Noble Group (來寶集團)  has generated negative cash-flows from the operations to the tune of
    -$1600M in 2014
    -$600M in 2015
    -$900M in 2016,
    -330M for Q-1 2017
    Noble has no intrinsic value by DCF. The book is not performing.

The market is not over-reacting.

The question is now rather about how Noble can still suggest that they are a $3.9B equity company (” their fair-to-arrive net equity”). 

Simply because Noble knows it cannot devalue its substantial booked value.

  • Q1 Noble Group Limited.png
  •  Bye Elman, the chairman and co-founder has officially resigned.

Noble has screwed up itself, its fixed income investors and its shareholders.

  • Only two months ago investors were lured by a 8.75% coupon  750 million unsecured bond. The maneuver was purposely to win time and bridge financials until Noble could conclude a potential deal with an acquirer (Sinopec).
  • No immediate performance catalysts suggest that this transaction is even remotely possible.

Noble nobbled.png

  • This unsecured bond issued at a 8.75% is now trading at 50. We no longer talk of yield to maturity but recovery rates.
  • This bond has to be refinanced next April.
  • By what ?
  • You need to factor if Noble can issue another 750M bond this time at 18-20% coupon and assume that the same investors bited by the snake will want to lose 100 to 50.
  • Equity investors who also subscribed to the 500M share rights issue at 0.20/share are now at 0.05.
  • Can some undisclosed aspects of Noble performance could have made the company less attractive to these investors ?


-The trader has lost $5.5M of Operating cash-flows at the end of each business day Monday-Fri during Q1.

How a serious bank will support the financing on no acceptable performance ?

Noble Group (來寶集團) is now two things; coal and oil liquids.

Credit lines have been granted on the performance of the oil liquids, the so-called “ebit indestructibility” of the Noble oil liquids segment but for Q1-17 the operating income from Supply Chains of $27M doesn’t even cover the interest rate load on this segment.

As alluded earlier, Noble Group is again in the sights of the credit agencies.

S&P questions the financial guearing of Noble. 

Noble’s only escape is to use a 2nd credit card to cover its $220M annualized interest bills and refinance its “fair-to-arrive” net equity. 

We are heading towards a restructuring event.

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 to banks and 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.

Noble, from Speed boats to Hypersonic Missiles.

The Transit Time on Colonial Pipeline, if you go from one end to the other (Houston to New York) is about 16 days.

Most of ship voyages in Asia are less than 10 days but apparently this is too much for Noble Group.

seanergy-maritime-capesize
Are Conventional Ships now too slow for Noble Group Ltd  ?

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

FY2015 the average transit time of Noble was 3.5 days.

FY2016 The average transit time of Noble, is now 0,019 days. It either implies that Noble has used hyper sonic missiles or that the corporation has a COGS inflated by 10 to 15 times in 2016.

If Noble, has always self-proclaimed itself as a corporation of +1000 employees working on busy trade floors, even more doubt their revenues.

Yet, none of the evidences suggest that this operation possesses the normal footprint associated to one of the largest commodity trader.

They have gone from cargoes put in the speed boats with the Elmans… to the Mach 5  speed with captain William Randall.

Noble Group inventory in-transit.png Audited Financial Statements 31 December 2016

The Noble Files 贵族档案

Noble Group’s Cliffhanger

 

 

2010:  Harry Banga splits… most of Noble problems start here.1

2015:  Noble Group, one of the biggest traders of commodities from coal to iron ore is melting from its base.

Script writers have devised the solution of telling us a story  but leaving it at a cliffhanger, thus forcing the market to postpone their execution to hear the rest of the tale.

A villain was designed and a lawsuit with an injunction was filed with the Hong Kong High Court asking to ban his research, hoping to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters would resolve the dilemma.

Continue reading Noble Group’s Cliffhanger