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MACQUARIE Equities Research says Noble Group has gone off to a solid start for the year following its first-quarter "clean net income" of US$118 million.
The earnings were ahead of Macquarie's US$100 million estimate, covering 24 per cent of the research house's (and consensus') full-year estimate.
"The 37 per cent year-on-year decline should be taken in the context of a difficult comparative (Q1 2014 was Noble's second-best quarter ever)."
Macquarie welcomed the higher level of disclosure around operating divisions and fair value balances, "though some may have expected more here".
Q1 2015's weak operating cash flow, while partially explained by timing issues, does take some of the shine off, it said.
The research house said Noble's annualised return on equity is back up to 9 per cent from one per cent in Q4 2014.
Macquarie remains confident that if this trajectory can hold, with more normal cash conversion, Noble can go back to trading at a premium-to-book value as implied by the former's target.
Macquarie said its 12-month price target is S$1.35, based on price-to-book methodology.