Noble Group, the Hong Kong-based commodity trader, has been downgraded by another ratings agency, a day after securing financing packages.
The struggling company signed two long-awaited deals worth a combined US$3bn, but that alone was not enough to stop Fitch cut its rating to junk. The agency follows Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s in doing so.
The structure of the new financing alluded to the fact that all is not well at Noble Group. It had been rumoured that the pricing would be double that of the facility it was due to replace.
It was reported that the US$1bn syndicated revolving credit facility would be priced at 225 basis points above Libor, which is more than twice the rate it paid for the US$1.1bn facility in 2015.
The rest of the finance is a US$2bn revolving borrowing base facility (BBF) which will be utilised by the group’s US operations and subsidiaries to finance growth there.
There were 25 banks on the US$1bn ticket, showing that despite the poor outlook for Noble, banks in Asia are still very keen to book cyclical commodity refinancing business.
Two bankers familiar with the deal told GTR that they “simply had to be on the ticket” of Noble’s refinancing as well as notable refis elsewhere in the market in recent months, such is the paucity of large transactions to finance.
The fact that despite its troubles, Noble has secured the US$1bn on a committed and non-secure business is perhaps as much testimony to the state of the banking market as the pricing is to Noble’s accounting.
Mandated lead arrangers (MLAs) and bookrunners on the RCF were: BTMU, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Rabobank, DBS, HSBC, ING, Société Générale and UOB.
The US$2bn BBF was led by BTMU and Société Générale, who were joint lead arrangers and bookrunners.
Noble’s recent history has been plagued by controversy. It was targeted by mysterious firm Iceberg Research for its accounting practices, which sent its share price tumbling (Noble dismissed this as opportunism).
But the company’s financial results show that Asia’s largest commodity trader is in serious trouble. A US$1.2bn write-down was the equivalent of three-year earnings, while its first quarter net profit was two-thirds down on last year’s figures.