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Iceberg claims Noble's balance sheet still can't be trusted

ICEBERG Research issued another fresh attack on Noble Group on Tuesday, claiming that the commodity trader's balance sheet numbers are still unreliable, even after the group recognised billions in impairment.

In a letter addressed to Noble's creditors, the research outfit also said that Noble Group does not have good traders, that it is overly optimistic on the valuation of its remaining assets, and that the group's liabilities have been "drastically undervalued".

Iceberg Research also threw doubt on Mkango Resources, a rare-earth exploration firm in Malawi that Noble recently agreed to invest £14 million (S$25 million) in.

Mkango, which is listed in Canada, has a market capitalisation of only C$11 million (S$11.6 million), it noted.

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"Financing and signing offtake/marketing agreements with companies that don't produce anything is typical of the way Noble has created fictitious profit for years," said Iceberg.

To put the firm back on its feet, the company will need a new management, it added. "Noble needs new senior managers, ideally coming from another commodity trading house. They will bring competent traders with them, with an old-fashioned mentality: a trader is paid to make money and responsibly manage risk."

Iceberg first attacked Noble Group in end-2015, claiming that the group inflated the value of assets and some contracts.

Noble has consistently denied these claims. Still, the firm had been unable to shake off doubts that persisted over the actual value of its assets, and has since shrunk to a shadow of its former self.

Its stock fell 1.3 cents, or 8.1 per cent, on Tuesday to close at 14.7 Singapore cents.