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Noble Group said to appoint metals traders after departures last month

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 - 20:41
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Noble Group Ltd's credit-rating was reduced to junk by Standard & Poor's and placed on watch for further cuts, deepening the challenges facing Asia's top commodity trader as it seeks to sustain investors' faith amid the raw-materials rout and attacks on its accounting.

[SINGAPORE] Noble Group Ltd appointed Alex Nizan to trade industrial metals including copper and zinc as Asia's biggest trading house assigned new roles following the departure of at least five traders last month, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The appointment of former warehousing head Mr Nizan comes as Noble remains committed to trading those metals, said the people, who asked not be identified because the information hasn't been made public.

Johannesburg-based Sariel Polatinsky, a former Glencore Plc trader and previously head of asset development for Noble in Africa, will also trade copper. In another internal appointment, Jarryd Rubinstein will handle the marketing of refined zinc produced by Nyrstar NV, one person said.

Nyrstar Senior Vice-President Michael Morley said on Oct. 22 that the deal with Noble remained in place. Noble has scaled back its trading of copper and zinc to focus on its core metals business of aluminum and alumina, a person familiar with the matter said last month.

Will Randall, who joined the Hong Kong firm 18 years ago and is one of three executives on the board, took control of metals trading from Mark Hansen, who left last month. Copper and zinc traders including David Freeland and Scott Evans also departed in October. Business Focus Stephen Brown, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Noble, said the company doesn't comment on personnel matters.

As part of a reorganization that has seen job cuts and staff departures, Noble is focusing on lines of business that can deliver immediate results, Chief Executive Officer Yusuf Alireza told shareholders in August. Noble has been battling short sellers as it tries to reduce debt and generate positive cash flow amid criticism of its accounting methods.

Iceberg Research, a previously unknown group whose members are anonymous, has said Noble uses aggressive interpretations of accounting rules to inflate the value of assets and contracts. Noble, which has slumped 54 per cent in Singapore trading this year, has denied the allegations. A study produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in August stated that Noble complied with international accounting rules in valuing long-term contracts.

Noble shares rose 5 per cent in Singapore on Wednesday after the biggest monthly gain in seven years in October as the company got fresh funding from lenders and speculation mounted that the worst of the commodity rout may be over.

BLOOMBERG