CEO Of Asia's Largest Commodity Trader Unexpectedly Resigns

We have tracked the problems of recently junked Noble Group - Asia's largest commodity trader - extensively over the past year (see "Noble Group’s Kurtosis Awakening Moment For The Commodity Markets", "Junk Isn't Very Noble: Asia's Largest Commodity Trader Responds To Moody's Downgrade", "Noble Group’s Cliffhanger", "Noble Group’s "Collateral Margin Call", "Noble Group's "Margin Call" Part II: The Enron Moment").

And then moments ago things finally turned serious for the company, which just a few weeks ago finalized a $3 billion credit facility in what according to some was an "all clear" moment. Apparently the only clarity was for long-time company CEO, and former Goldmanite Yusuf Alireza, that the time has come to exit stage left.

As the company announced moments ago on the Singapore stock exchange, not only is CEO Alireza resigning, to be replaced by William Randall and Jeff Frase as co-CEOs, but the company will also begin the sale process of its Noble Americas Energy Solutions, a deal that will generate "significant cash proceeds", which is great since Nobel is desperately in need of cash; it also means that the company is losing one more of its star performing assets as it continues to asset strip itself of any potential future growth, and is merely scrambling to preserve solvency and liquidity.

Randall, based in Hong Kong, is currently President of Noble Group and an Executive Director and will retain his Board Seat. Frase, based in Stamford, Connecticut is currently President, Noble Americas and Head of Oil Liquids and will be invited to join the Board.

From the press release:

The Directors of Noble Group announce that they have accepted the resignation of Yusuf Alireza, Chief Executive Officer.


Mr. Alireza has helped guide Noble through a very challenging period, moving the company to an asset light, merchant focused model; he played a pivotal role in the successful sale of Noble Agri to a group of investors led by COFCO, and has also been instrumental in securing the recently announced re-financing, a crucial element in the process of giving the group a stable base from which to develop.


With this transformation process now largely complete, Mr. Alireza considered that the time was right for him to move on. The Board wishes to thank Mr. Alireza for his dedication and commitment to the company over the last four years, and in particular for his huge commitment of time and energy over the past eighteen months, as Noble has navigated some of the most difficult market conditions ever seen in commodities markets.


The Board looks forward to working with Yusuf in the future should the opportunity arise.


A separate announcement will be made about succession to Mr. Alireza

And in a separate press release the company announced Alireza's replacements, as well as the major corporate overhaul noted above:

The Board of Directors of Noble Group wishes to announce the appointment of Mr. William Randall and Mr. Jeff Frase as Co Chief Executive Officers. Will, based in Hong Kong, is currently President of Noble Group and an Executive Director and will retain his Board Seat. Jeff, based in Stamford, Connecticut is currently President, Noble Americas and Head of Oil Liquids and will be invited to join the Board.


In addition, the Board also confirmed today that Mr. Richard Elman will continue in his role as Chairman and Executive Director.

Richard Elman commented “I am delighted that Will and Jeff will be leading Noble Group's operations as we embark on the Company's next chapter. Their complementary commodities expertise and geographical focus will be hugely valuable as we position ourselves for the future.” 


Will, having begun his career with Noble in Australia in February 1997, established Noble's coal operations, mining and supply chain management businesses. He also served as a Director of Noble Energy Inc. prior to being appointed Global Head of Coal and Coke in 2006, and a member of the Noble Group internal Management Committee Board in 2008. He was appointed an Executive Director and Head of Hard Commodities in 2012, prior to which he had been Head of Energy Coal and Carbon Complex. He holds a Bachelor degree in Business from the Australian Catholic University majoring in international marketing and finance.


Jeff is based in Stamford, Connecticut and is currently President, Noble Americas and Head of Oil Liquids.


Jeff joined the Group from JP Morgan in New York where he was Managing Director and Global Head of Oil Trading. Prior to JP Morgan he spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs where he was a Managing Director and Global Head of Crude Oil and Derivatives Trading.


The Board expects to announce some further additional leadership appointments in due course as the business developments dictate.


In addition, the Board wishes to announce that it will shortly be starting the sale process for Noble Americas Energy Solutions, a transaction which is expected to generate both significant cash proceeds and profits to substantially enhance the balance sheet. This is in addition to fund raising initiative previously announced. Full details will be released in the near future.

For a rather gloomy, pessimistic, and in light of this latest news, justified, take on how the Noble Group saga ends, please read the following note "The Big N, its Bankruptcy Risk and its Circularity with the Energy Commodity Prices."


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