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Noble Group’s $3.5 billion debt rescue plan was thrown into doubt on Thursday when Singapore authorities said they would block the relisting of shares in what was once Asia’s top commodity trader.

Singapore regulators took the decision after reviewing the findings so far of a probe into Singapore-listed Noble by Singapore police, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

MAS, the city-state’s central bank, and Singapore Exchange regulators concluded that “there are significant uncertainties about the financial position of New Noble”, they said in a statement, referring to the restructured unit.

“It would be imprudent to allow the re-listing as investors will not be able to trade in New Noble’s shares on an informed basis. MAS and SGX Regco (Singapore Exchange Regulation) will therefore not allow the re-listing of New Noble to proceed,” the statement said.

Noble has seen its market value all but wiped out from $6 billion over the past four years after its accounting was questioned by Iceberg Research in February 2015.

To save itself, Noble has sold billions of dollars of assets, taken hefty writedowns and cut hundreds of jobs, while defending its accounting.

The company, whose shares were suspended from trading last month due to the restructuring, wants to transform itself into an Asia-focused coal-trading business. Noble was looking to list the overhauled business as part of the restructuring, which is subject to regulatory approval.

Noble said it intended to “take steps to preserve value for stakeholders, including through implementation of the structuring by an alternative process”. It added that it had consulted with its group of creditors.

The company said it planned to shortly provide a comprehensive response to ACRA, regarding the regulator’s investigation into the company’s technical accounting.

Amid the regulatory probe, Noble had pushed back last month’s deadline to complete its debt restructuring deal to Dec. 11 and said it was cooperating fully with authorities.

At the time of the last extension, Noble had said it had made good progress towards completing the restructuring but the timeline was delayed “due to the additional time required to fully address all concerns of the regulators”.

On Thursday, Singapore authorities said that after the investigation started, Noble had submitted financial statements which would have cut the restructured unit’s net asset value by as much as 45 percent after taking into account potential non-compliance with accounting standards.

Under the proposed debt-for-equity deal, Noble’s debt would be halved and it would get access to $800 million in trade finance and hedging facilities, a lifeline in a sector where profit margins are in the low single digits.

In return, Noble’s creditors, mostly made up of hedge funds, would own 70 percent of the restructured business, while existing shareholders’ equity would be reduced to 20 percent and Noble’s management was to get 10 percent.

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RBS earnings Q1 2019



The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) reported a net profit of £707 million ($912.2 million) for its first quarter on Friday, down 11% from the £792 million posted over the same period last year.

The figures exceeded expectations of £546 million according to a company-provided average of analyst forecasts. However, RBS shares fell 5% Friday morning as the bank warned of upcoming challenges due to continued Brexit uncertainty.

The news comes following the announcement Thursday that CEO Ross McEwan will step down in 2020. The bank has now launched a global hunt for his successor, with RBS executive Alison Rose tipped as favorite for the job.

Here are the key figures:

  • Net profit dropped 11.3% to £707 million from £792 million in the first quarter of 2018, but exceeded a prediction of £546 million.
  • The group’s net interest margin decreased by six basis points to 1.89%.
  • Total revenue was £3 billion, with total operating costs coming to £1.9 billion.
  • The bank’s impairment losses totaled £86 million, up from £78 million in the same period last year.

In the earnings statement, RBS said the “ongoing impact of Brexit uncertainty on the economy, and associated delay in business borrowing decisions, is likely to make income growth more challenging in the near term.”

The bank has long warned of the possible impact of the U.K.’s departure from the European Union, along with a highly competitive mortgage market. In the third quarter of 2018, RBS set aside £100 million to deal with economic uncertainties, including the fallout from Brexit.

The figures come amid what is proving to be a difficult earnings season for the European banks, with fellow British giant Barclays reporting a 10% drop in profits Thursday.

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Moldova will build highways with China firms



Moldova is set to sign infrastructure deals with two Chinese contractors, according to the country’s State Secretary at the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure — marking the first time Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative has expanded into the eastern European country.

In an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday, Vitalie Iurcu said negotiations started several years ago, “and most probably this year, we should sign contracts” to build “almost 300 kilometers of roads in the Republic of Moldova.”

The Belt and Road is a massive infrastructure network involving roads, railways and ports that seek to connect China to more than 60 countries across three continents: Asia, Europe and Africa.

The two Chinese companies — which some reports say are China Hyway Group and China Railway Group — will finance the bulk of Moldova’s highway project. “85 percent will be financed by the Chinese partners, and 15 percent will be (the) contribution of the Moldovan government,” Iurcu told CNBC.

Critics have said that the Belt and Road project not only benefits Chinese firms and helps Beijing gain political leverage, but the high costs of some investment projects could also weigh on the national debt and economies of developing countries.

When asked about some of these concerns — sometimes referred to as a “debt trap” — Iurcu said Moldova has already conducted “deep feasibility studies” to ensure that these projects are “feasible” and “payable.”

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Bitcoin price falls on NY AG Bitfinex probe



A visual representation of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin on November 20, 2018 in London, England.

Jordan Mansfield | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A visual representation of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin on November 20, 2018 in London, England.

Cryptocurrencies fell amid reignited regulatory worries and questions around the legitimacy of so-called “stablecoin” tether.

The entire market shed about $10 billion in value in the space of an hour late Thursday, CoinMarketCap data showed. This after the New York attorney general accused the operator of bitcoin exchange Bitfinex and tether issuer Tether Limited of hiding an $850 million loss.

The state’s top lawyer alleges Bitfinex used at least $700 million from Tether’s cash reserves to cover up the apparent loss of $850 million of client and corporate funds. Its findings were detailed in papers filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court.

Tether is a cryptocurrency that is meant to be pegged to the U.S. dollar — otherwise known as a stablecoin. Worries have been raised over whether Tether Limited holds enough dollars to back all the tokens in circulation.

The price of bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, has fallen 4% over the last 24 hours, according to industry website CoinDesk. In the same time period, the prices of ethereum and XRP — the world’s second and third-largest virtual currencies by market value — also dropped 6% and 3%, respectively. Tether’s price fell over 1%, coming off its dollar peg.

The attorney general’s office said Thursday that Bitfinex handed $850 million to a Panama entity called Crypto Capital without disclosing it to investors. Executives at Bitfinex and Tether then allegedly “engaged in a series of conflicted corporate transactions” — where Bitfinex gave itself access to Tether’s cash reserves.

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