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Noble Group, the embattled commodity trader, has named a new chairman and warned that it might not be profitable until 2019.

The Hong-Kong based company said Paul Brough, a non-executive director, would replace founder Richard Elman as chairman and take charge of reviewing strategic options for the group which has suffered a torrid couple of years after its accounts were questioned.

“I will be taking on a non-executive Board role as Founder and Chairman Emeritus,” said Mr Elman, in a statement that detailed an overhaul of its board.

“We are all delighted that Paul Brough, who has been an outstanding Independent Non-Executive Director for us over the last couple of years, has agreed to step into my role as Chairman of the Group and will take charge of reviewing strategic alternatives,” added Mr Elman.

Shares in Noble dropped by a third on Thursday as investors had their first chance to respond to news that it would suffer a $130m loss in the first quarter of 2017 because of tough market conditions.

The loss, flagged earlier this week, has raised concerns about the company’s ability to recover after a torrid couple of years that forced a drastic restructuring of its operations.

But in a “message” to shareholders on Thursday Mr Elman said the company was on the right track and have achieved a lot over the past year.

“We have told people repeatedly, and I repeat it here, that this undertaking will not be some superficial overnight Botox fill-and-smile,” said Mr Elman.

“Rather it will be a long, hard slog with ups and downs along the way, until we regain profitability, a goal that we are most likely to achieve in 2018/19 financial years.”

Over the past two years, Noble has replaced its leadership, sold a string of assets, raised cash from shareholders and exited several businesses. It has also changed its funding model, moving to more expensive secured debt. But its share price has remained under constant pressure.

Shares in Noble, which counts a Chinese sovereign wealth fund CIC as one of its largest investors, plunged 32 per cent to S$.85 a 14-year low on Thursday.

Noble recently pushed through a 10-for-1 share consolidation in an effort to avoid penny share status.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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