Noble thrives in Singapore debut

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 March, 1997, 12:00am

Hong Kong-based Noble Group, which pulled its shares off the Hong Kong exchange last year, debuted in Singapore yesterday with a 10.8 per cent rise.

The metals company found a better reception in Singapore 'because investors there seem to have a better understanding of industrial companies', chairman and chief executive Richard Elman said.

A renaissance in the US dollar listings of foreign companies might have helped the shares, he said.

Shares rose 9.5 US cents to close at 97.5 cents. Institutional investors took in 80 per cent of the float, with about 8 per cent taken up by employees and business associates and 12 per cent offered to public investors.

Shares offered to the public were 18.8 times subscribed. Most Singapore investors applied for the shares using automated teller machines, Mr Elman said.

Noble's profits had grown at a compounded annual rate of 150 per cent between 1990 and 1995 to US$19.8 million, but shares listed in Hong Kong languished until the company bought them all back from investors in May last year.

As an industrial, metals, shipping company, Noble seemed to slip through the cracks of the typical corporate classifications in Hong Kong.

Despite Noble's profitability, its earnings could be quite volatile, some fund managers said previously. Noble operates primarily in a difficult environment and with commodities subject to sharp price swings. That may be another reason the company found little support for its earlier listing.

The company sources and processes metals, chemicals and energy products in some of the world's most inefficient markets - from Pakistan to China to Russia - giving clients an alternative to dealing directly with the bureaucracy.