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Noble Group completes $3.5 billion restructuring to emerge as smaller, unlisted firm

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Noble Group (NOBG.SI), the once mighty commodity trader, on Thursday completed its drawn out $3.5 billion debt restructuring to emerge as a smaller, unlisted Asia-focused coal-trading business.

FILE PHOTO: Photo of Noble Group logo at investor event from August 2015

The completed restructuring effectively closes the saga of Noble’s collapse from Asia’s biggest commodity trader with a market value of over $6 billion to less than $80 million that began in February 2015 when its accounting practices were questioned by Iceberg Research.

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

“The completion of the company’s restructuring allows the company’s business to move forward under its new holding company, Noble Group Holdings Ltd,” the company said in a statement to the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

Seventy percent of the shares of Noble Group Holdings will be held by a so-called special purpose vehicle representing the previous company’s creditors, with 20 percent held by the shareholders of the previous company and 10 percent by the management, the statement said.

The debt-for-equity restructuring plan was in the works for nearly two years but was thrown into disarray after Singaporean authorities last month started investigating the company.

The authorities blocked the relisting of the restructured company on the SGX because of concerns about its financial position. Trading in Noble shares was suspended last month.

That forced Noble to push ahead with the restructuring by asking a Bermuda court to appoint an officer, known as a “light-touch” provisional liquidator, to facilitate the process.

The provisional liquidation program allows a company “in the zone of insolvency” to move forward with a restructuring while any actions to wind up the company by creditors are on hold, according to an industry note issued in July by Bermuda-based law firm Taylors, part of global law firm Walkers.

The provisional liquidator will stay in office pending further discussions by the creditors and decisions by the Bermuda court, the statement said.

The reorganization will give Noble Group Holdings a fully restructured balance sheet as well as committed trade and hedging facilities of $800 million, according to the statement.

While the revamped company is set to press forward, the Singaporean investigations may linger.

Noble Group said in Thursday’s statement that it sent a detailed response on Dec. 11 to the city-state’s accounting regulators to address the allegations raised in November.

Noble said it continued “to hold the strong view that all of its financial statements have been prepared in accordance with all relevant accounting standards.”

Citing the Singapore investigations, Noble said it needed to reconsider the “most appropriate” composition of the board of directors of the restructured company, which will take more time to complete.

Paul Brough, Noble’s current chairman, agreed to become the first chairman of Noble Group Holdings until a suitable successor has been identified, it said. Brough, a restructuring veteran, had previously said he would step down once the restructuring was completed.

The company was set to appoint Ian Potter, a former senior banker at Morgan Stanley, as its next chairman in a few weeks, sources with knowledge of the matter said last month.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks

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Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting

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Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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