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Noble Group shares surge 37 percent on buyout talks

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Shares of crisis-hit commodities trader Noble Group soared by as much as 37 percent Monday after a report said that a Chinese conglomerate was interested in buying the company. The once-mighty firm is struggling to survive after making heavy losses, and has been selling off assets to try to stay afloat.

Bloomberg News reported that China’s Cedar Holdings had expressed an interest in buying control of Singapore-listed Noble, sending the company’s shares surging. Noble’s stock closed at 27.0 Singapore cents (20 US cents), up 31.7 percent from its Friday close. The jump prompted a query from the Singapore Exchange. Noble said in a statement it remained in talks with “various potential strategic parties”, without naming them.

“Whilst no assurance can be given as to the outcome of these discussions, the company believes that these are open and constructive, and are moving forward,” it added. Noble is moving to reach a deal on restructuring $3.5 billion in debt before a payment falls due on January 29, according to Bloomberg. It said the company’s market value has fallen from more than $10 billion to less than $300 million.

Cedar is the largest private company in Guangzhou and ranks 16th in China, with businesses ranging from commodities trading, chemicals, tourism, real estate and finance. Noble, which is headquartered in Hong Kong, has been hammered since 2015 as plunging commodity prices hit its bottom line. It has also suffered a ratings downgrade and allegations of irregular accounting practices.

The company reported last year that its net losses for the first nine months of 2017 were more than $3.0 billion. It has sold assets, including its American oil-liquids business and US gas and power unit, in a bid to repay its debt. It also wants to refocus its business on hard commodities those that are mined, like coal and metals as well as on freight and liquefied natural gas, with an eye on Asia.

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