After months of critics' attacks and stock slides, Noble Group clocked a marathon presentation Monday - stretching more than three hours, not including the open microphone for questions that went on for another two hours - but it isn't clear the message went the distance.
"Our priority has been, first and foremost, maintain the support of our stakeholders, which we have, and continue to do business as usual," said Yusuf Alireza, Noble's chief executive officer. "Our banks have supported us," he said, noting that Hong Kong-based Noble, Asia's biggest commodities trader, has more than $50 billion in available credit.
As part of the presentation's exhaustive description of its major business lines and projects from the company's division chiefs, Alireza noted that Noble's top 15 shareholders had remained unchanged over the past six months and that these investors had raised their stakes to 73 percent of the company from 68 percent previously.
But that show of support hasn't helped the stock weather a pile-on from critics, with shares down more than 60 percent since then-anonymous Iceberg Research set off the scrimmage in February when it published a report, alleging that the Singapore-listed trader's accounting treatments were "unusual," result in "fabricated" profit and "intentionally misleads credit agencies and investors."
Noble has consistently and vehemently denied the allegations and has taken multiple steps to improve its disclosures to investors, including commissioning an independent review of its accounting from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which found Noble's accounting was in line with international standards.
After its publication earlier this month, critics immediately heaped criticism upon the PwC report, with claims that included questioning whether it was truly independent and that it didn't address concerns over Noble's mark-to-market valuations of contracts.
At the presentation, which was also webcast, Noble independent director Paul Brough noted that while PwC didn't revalue the contracts - a key criticism of the review - it did evaluate the processes. Brough also noted the company would adopt all of PwC's recommendations "without reservation."
In a sign of frustration with Noble's critics, Alireza said he felt it was unlikely PwC would compromise its reputation by failing to deliver a thorough review.