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[SINGAPORE] Standard and Poor's cut Noble Group's credit rating deeper into junk status on Wednesday and described its outlook as negative, citing elevated refinancing risks over the next 12 months.
The ratings agency said it had cut the Singapore-based commodities trader's long-term corporate credit rating to B+ from BB- and highlighted risks to the sustainability of its profit and cash flow generation.
"We downgraded Noble to reflect our view that the company's liquidity position has weakened despite the recent completion of refinancing and a proposed US$500 million fully underwritten rights issue," S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Danny Huang said.
Noble's troubles started more than a year ago when its accounts were questioned by a blogger, sparking a dramatic collapse in its share price. Rating downgrades forced the company to sell some of its key assets to allay financing worries and weather the commodities downturn.
Earlier this month, Noble said it was raising about US$500 million from a deeply discounted share issue, cutting jobs and that its Chairman Richard Elman was stepping down. Noble's CEO is also leaving and it is looking to sell its San Diego-based Noble Americas Energy Solutions (NAES) unit.
The departures may hit Noble's strategy and execution, S&P said, adding that the rights issue would not cover refinancing needs beyond the next 12 months. S&P said it could lower Noble's rating if its liquidity position continued to deteriorate.
S&P said the negative outlook reflected factors including, "limited visibility over the sale process of NAES due to senior management changes, and potentially weaker financial performance and cash flow generation due to reduced credit lines and counterparty support."