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Noble CEO Alireza quits, Americas Energy Solutions put up for sale

Noble Group
Nicky Loh | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Troubled commodities trading firm Noble Group said its chief executive Yusuf Alireza had quit for "family reasons." The announcement sent the stock down more than 3 percent in early trade.

Noble said that it had appointed its president William Randall as co-chief executive with Jeff Frase, a former JPMorgan banker who joined Noble as president of its Americas business in November. Randall is based in Hong Kong and Frase in Connecticut.

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In a statement, Noble's directors said that Alireza had helped guide Noble through a very challenging period and that, with the company's asset disposal program near-complete, he "considered that the time was right for him to move on."

Noble founder Richard Ellman will keep his roles as chairman and executive director at the Hong Kong-based, Singapore-listed trader.

"The board expects to announce some further additional leadership appointments in due course as the business developments dictate," the company said.

Noble also said that it would put its Americas Energy Solutions business on the block, with a sale expected to generate "significant cash proceeds and profits to substantially enhance the balance sheet."

Noble has suffered repeated blows over the past year. Already hit by the global slump in commodities prices, the traders' stock has tanked sinc February 2015, when Iceberg Research published a report alleging that Noble's accounting treatments were creating "fabricated" profits.

Despite Noble's vociferous denials - it alleges Iceberg is run by a disgruntled former employee - and the implementation of a program of asset sales to bolster its balance sheet, the company was cut to junk status in January by ratings agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's.

In February the company reported its first annual loss since 1998, on the back of a $1.2 billion writedown on weak coal prices.

On May 17 Fitch Ratings became the last of the big ratings houses to remove Noble's investment grade rating, saying that the company's debt maturity profile was weakening. It gave the trader a "stable" outlook.

Noble's shares closed down almost 75 percent on Friday from their level in the days before Iceberg's report was published, then lost more than 3 percent to trade at 30 Singapore cents each early on on Monday after Alireza's exit was made public.

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