Trading Firm Noble Seen Picking Oil Unit Buyer In September
LONDON/SINGAPORE, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Trader Noble Group is expected to pick a buyer for its oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) units by mid-September to cover debts and reduce credit exposure after a first half loss of $1.9 billion, sources familiar with the matter said.
Once Asia's largest commodities trader, Singapore-listed Noble has slimmed down drastically to its core Asian coal business after a crisis-wracked two years.
Hong Kong-based Noble said in July it was selling its North American gas and power business to Mercuria and also said it would sell its capital-intensive oil liquids business, leaving it focused on hard commodities.
Suitors for the oil business have already signed non-disclosure agreements, one of the sources told Reuters.
"We have the last two weeks of August to view and then compile the bids ... Noble will then take the first two weeks of September to review them," the source said.
Noble's $2 billion credit facility expires in October, a date set by creditors after a four-month extension.
Noble's LNG business would be included in the sale, the sources said. The firm delivered 2 million tonnes of LNG in 2015 after securing a deal to supply Egypt and contracts in the Asia-Pacific region.
Noble declined comment.
The sources, who did not put a value on the oil and LNG units, said interested parties included rival trading firms Mercuria Group, Vitol Group, U.S.-based Castleton Commodities International and Freepoint Commodities, as well as Litasco, the trading arm of Russia's Lukoil.
A spokesman for Mercuria said the company was "looking broadly at opportunities in the marketplace."
Spokesmen for Vitol and Litasco declined to comment. Freepoint and Castleton did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Noble is a major player in the global physical oil market, trading crude and refined products. But its operations shrank this year due to higher prices and liquidity constraints.
Noble said its traded oil liquids volume fell nearly 20 percent year-on-year for the first half of 2017. In 2016, it traded 115 million tonnes of oil, helped by low prices.
The firm has blending and wholesale capabilities in North America and the Caribbean, alongside long-term storage leases globally.
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