Singapore fines Noble for ‘misleading’ financial statements


Singapore has fined commodities enterprise Noble Group S$12.6mn ($9.1mn) for publishing “misleading information” in its financial statements, following an investigation that has taken nearly 4 years to finish.

The announcement by town state’s accounting authority concludes its probe of a high-profile accounting scandal that introduced Noble to the brink of collapse. It additionally flagged “stern warnings” given to 2 unnamed former administrators of the group.

Noble’s near-collapse, from a enterprise value greater than $6bn that had hoped to emulate business large Glencore, was precipitated by a collection of extremely essential experiences on its accounting practices revealed in 2015 by brief vendor Iceberg Research.

By 2018, it had been pressured right into a painful debt-for-equity swap and a delisting, and it offered off plenty of key property to assist it survive. The saga additionally dented Singapore’s repute as a commodities buying and selling hub.

The high-quality, equal to 0.4 per cent of Noble’s reported revenues in 2020, was criticised by Iceberg. “A minor fine for a major [scandal],” it wrote on Twitter.

The improper accounting at Noble is certainly one of a collection of scandals lately which have raised questions on regulation in Singapore, which has sought to draw multinationals whereas selling its robust “rule of law”.

A variety of Singapore-based commodities teams have been on the centre of scandals lately, together with Noble Group, Agritrade International, Hin Leong Trading, ZenRock Commodities Trading and Petro-Diamond Singapore.

Some have acquired hefty fines and executives have confronted jail time. The billionaire founding father of Hin Leong, Lim Oon Kuin, in 2020 confessed to hiding $800mn in losses on the Singapore-based oil buying and selling agency he based. Singapore police filed greater than 100 expenses towards Lim final 12 months whereas a former director and operations government of ZenRock have been charged final month with greater than $105mn worth of dishonesty offences.

The issues make the case for a stronger regulatory framework and oversight of buying and selling homes in Singapore’s small, open economic system say analysts. But Nirgunan Tiruchelvam, an analyst at Tellimer, mentioned they didn’t appear to have dented company enthusiasm for Singapore.

“Singapore provides these companies with tax haven status and access to financiers, which these businesses are so dependent on,” he mentioned.

“Singapore’s stock exchange [lost] credibility a long time ago,” wrote Iceberg. “The lack of enforcement means even Singapore companies prefer to list elsewhere.”

Loo Siew Yee, assistant managing director of the coverage, funds and financial crime group on the Monetary Authority of Singapore, mentioned that measures taken by the authorities towards Noble “demonstrates that MAS takes breaches of disclosure obligations seriously and will take firm action against persons found to have fallen short”.

Noble mentioned it was happy the investigation had been concluded, including that its commodity buying and selling enterprise had been underneath new possession and administration since December 2018 and “has focused on the highest standards of corporate governance, reporting and transparency since then”.

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