BONDS: Noble ropes in trio for potential debut sukuk
Bank of America Merrill Lynch is believed to have an advisory role in Noble’s crack at opening the sukuk market for its funding needs. Noble recently set up a M$3bn (US$981.7m) multicurrency sukuk Murabahah programme, the first drawdown of which is likely to be a debut ringgit issue.
AmInvestment Bank and Standard Chartered are thought to be joint leads on the upcoming issue. No details on timing, size or tenor were available.
The global commodities trading group has obtained a rating of AA2 from Ram on the bonds, backed against its position as a leading player in the commodities industry.
Noble has funded mainly in the US dollar debt markets, with its last tap a US$350m 8.5% perpetual in November 2010. It is internationally rated Baa3/BBB–/BBB–, but analysts have said its fourth-quarter 2011 results were credit positive on the back of a gradual improvement in its key agriculture and energy segments.
As of end-2011, its liquidity profile remained stable with around US$1.2bn in free cash and undrawn committed credit facilities of around US$4.5bn .
The bulk of Noble’s agricultural and commodity businesses should comply well with shariah standards, but the company may have its work cut out in Malaysia as it will have to educate local investors about its operations in detail. Malaysian investors have always leaned towards familiar or prime names, but the bigger Malaysian investors should be comfortable with it. Rival bankers said, although Noble was based in Hong Kong and listed on the Singapore Exchange, its global operations had attracted Malaysian investors who held stocks in the company.