SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Goldilocks Investment Co. Ltd, a dissident shareholder of Noble Group Ltd, filed a lawsuit in Singapore on Wednesday against the commodities trader, seeking to prevent Noble from pursuing a debt restructuring.
It also sought an injunction to stop Noble from holding a shareholders’ meeting scheduled for Monday.
“Goldilocks Investment Company Ltd has filed legal action today in light of the continuing refusal by Noble Group Ltd to recognize legitimate legal rights of Goldilocks as a shareholder of Noble,” the investment fund, which holds an 8.1 percent stake in Singapore-listed Noble said in a statement.
Noble is pursuing a $3.4 billion debt restructuring - crucial for the survival of the company - which has sold billions of dollars of assets, taken hefty writedowns and cut hundreds of jobs over the past three years to cut debt.
Noble has won the backing of its senior creditors, but also needs approval from a majority of its shareholders at a special general meeting, for which a date has not been announced.
In a statement to the Singapore bourse on Thursday, Noble said Goldilock’s claims were without merit and it would try to implement the debt restructuring for the benefit of all stakeholders.
“The alternative is very stark - a full insolvency process which will result in no return for shareholders of the company,” Noble said. It said Godilocks actions “are pushing the company ever closer to this alternative.”
Once Asia’s largest commodity trader, Noble was plunged into crisis in February 2015 when Iceberg Research questioned its books. Noble has stood by its accounting.
Noble’s market value has fallen to just $88 million, from $6 billion in February 2015, as the company reported record losses and shrunk its business.
Earlier this month, Noble improved the terms of the restructuring and won the support of its biggest shareholder Richard Elman, who also founded the company.
Noble is pushing to halve its debt and hand over 70 percent of the restructured business to creditors. Existing shareholders will get 15 percent equity in the new company.
Goldilocks said it filed two separate lawsuits in Singapore.
In one, it is seeking measures that include allowing it to propose directors for election to Noble’s board. In the second lawsuit, it is seeking to prevent Noble, the company’s board and supporting creditors from proceeding with the debt deal.
Goldilocks is also seeking an injunction against Noble’s annual general meeting due on April 30. A spokesman for Goldilocks told Reuters that the case against holding the meeting will be heard by a judge on Friday.
The latest move by Goldilocks, which is backed by the Abu Dhabi Financial Group, came after Noble this week rejected Goldilock’s nomination of five directors, saying Goldilock’s paperwork was not valid.
On Wednesday, Joseph Swanson, senior managing director of Houlihan Lokey, financial adviser to Noble’s senior creditors, had said the proposed restructuring was the only transaction on the table, so creditors were focused on getting it done.
In March, Goldilocks had filed a lawsuit in Singapore alleging that Noble had inflated its assets. Noble said it intends to resist all allegations and stood by its accounting.
This lawsuit is due to be heard next month.
Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Additional reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru. Editing by Jane Merriman and Richard Pullin