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Noble Group chairman hopeful restructuring talks can conclude soon

NOBLE Group's chairman Paul Brough reiterated on Thursday that the company's talks with its creditors and strategic investors have been "constructive" and are moving forward, as reports of the group having reached an agreement with bondholders and lenders surfaced.

He declined, however, to share more at a special general meeting on Thursday afternoon, explaining that doing so is detrimental to the group's best interest.

"Those talks have been going for a couple of months. They have been constructive, and they are moving forward. And I'm hopeful we will reach a conclusion some time in the near future," he said. "I still need to go back to see my board and discuss with them, but yes I hope things are moving in the right direction."

Noble is said to have reached the framework of an agreement to restructure its US$3.5 billion worth of debts, according to a Debtwire report, though there are still some issues to be worked through.

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The agreement with bondholders and revolving credit facility (RCF) lenders was struck after meetings in London on Jan 22 and 23, said Debtwire.

Under this agreement, RCF lenders and noteholders will be given a controlling stake after converting their debt for equity, leaving the new entity with about US$600 million in debt.

While Chinese firm Cedar Holdings is a candidate to enter the company, talks with other strategic investors have also been held, Debtwire reported.

The entry of a strategic investor, however, would take place after the debt restructuring is implemented, and would entail creditors selling to the investor a large part of the shares of the new company, obtained through the debt-to-equity deal.

Noble has halted trading of its shares after it surged on heavy trading on Thursday.

The counter, which opened at 26.5 Singapore cents on Thursday, jumped to as high as 32 Singapore cents. It last traded at 30.5 Singapore cents, up 15.1 per cent, with some 54.2 million shares having changed hands.

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