Noble shares plummet nearly 50 percent after announcing profit warning, asset sales

Key Points
  • Noble Group shares plunged as much as 48.7 percent on Thursday after the company on Wednesday issued a profit warning and plans for asset sales

Troubled commodity trader Noble Group saw its shares plummet as much as 48.7 percent on Thursday after the company on Wednesday issued a profit warning and plans for asset sales.

The stock tumbled as low as 29.5 Singapore cents, or 22 U.S. cents. At 9:08 a.m. HK/SIN, the stock was down 36.52 percent at S$0.365.

The company logo of Noble Group at its headquarters in Hong Kong
Bobby Yip | Reuters

At its peak in 2010, Noble was Asia's largest commodity trader with a market cap of more than $10 billion. Shares hit an all-time high of 17 Singapore dollars in 2011, but have since fallen as it struggles with the aggressive commodity price decline in recent years.

Noble has been forced to shuffle management, sell down assets and slash costs to boost liquidity. At the same time, its management has been navigating a series of credit downgrades, write-downs and accusations of improper accounting standards — all of which contributed to the dramatic collapse in its share price.

Thursday's massive drop followed the company's announcement on Wednesday that it expected to report a loss of as much as $1.8 billion for the second quarter, citing a continued challenging environment for both the company and the commodity sector.

It said its headcount would be cut to around 400 from around 900 currently.

Noble also posted a surprise loss of $129 million for the first quarter, which the company said caused "difficulties" in managing and supporting its supply chain and hedging activities as well as hurting the confidence of its lenders and other counter-parties.

Why Noble is selling its US energy unit

"The board believes that the commodities trading industry will continue to face both challenging conditions and realignment as established participants face a low margin trading environment against the backdrop of changing banking and regulatory landscapes and the potential for digital disruption," it said in the statement on Wednesday after the market closed.

Noble said it was positioning for continued stress, adding it expected the industry would face difficulty accessing liquidity as lenders cut their exposure to the sector.

The company noted that, as a result of its strategic review, it was in the process of selling its Global Oil Liquids with a short list of potential buyers.

Noble noted that the unit was its "most working capital intensive" operation.

It said it was expecting final bids during the third quarter of 2017, but that it didn't have a binding agreement yet.

Noble added that it had also struck a deal to sell its Noble Americas Gas & Power subsidiary to Mercuria Energy America for $248 million, expecting the deal to close before the end of the year.

Noble said the two deals would likely allow it to retire two secured revolving credit facilities which totaled $3 billion.

Ratings agency S&P Global Ratings said on Thursday that it would keep a negative outlook on its CCC-plus rating on Noble.

"An unexpectedly large loss in the second quarter of 2017 highlights Noble's continuously deteriorating profitability and liquidity constraints," S&P said, adding that the asset sales may not be enough to mitigate losses and the company's less favorable credit access.

Additionally, S&P expressed concern about the company's business ahead.

"The company has been selling some of its more profitable businesses, leaving it with a less diversified and potentially more volatile portfolio," S&P said.

—CNBC's Dan Murphy contributed to this report.