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Noble down 5.7% after year's first buyback; stock second most active

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Noble Group remained among the most active stocks on the Singapore market on Friday, slightly easing after the company executed its first share buyback in at least a year.

NOBLE Group remained among the most active stocks on the Singapore market on Friday, slightly easing after the company executed its first share buyback in at least a year.

Shares of the commodity trader slipped 5.7 per cent, or 4 Singapore cents per share, to 66.5 Singapore cents as at 10.54am. About 83.9 million shares had changed hands at that time, making Noble the second-most actively traded counter on the exchange in the morning.

Noble announced before the market opened that it had bought back 25 million of its own shares at an average price of 66.92 Singapore cents apiece, or S$16.8 million in total, on the market on Thursday. The company was authorised to buy up to 673.9 million shares. The purchased shares represented 0.37 per cent of Noble's outstanding non-treasury shares.

The company's shares have been under pressure since February, following questions raised about its accounting practices and amid a weak outlook for commodities. The counter last closed at a year-to-date high of S$1.205 on Feb 13.

On Thursday, OCBC dropped its price target for the stock to 61 Singapore cents from S$1.05, but retained its "hold" recommendation. Credit rating agency Standard and Poor's (S&P) also cut its outlook on Noble to "negative" from "stable", citing expectations of higher earnings volatility. S&P maintained Noble's BBB- rating.

Noble chairman Richard Elman on Thursday published a letter asking shareholders and colleagues for "confidence and patience". Mr Elman said the company had been working behind the scenes and was starting to make progress to recover share value.

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