Muddy Waters is short Noble Group Limited (“Noble”). Noble seems to exist solely to borrow and burn cash. According to Bloomberg, Noble has been free cash flow positive only four out of 20 years – in other words, it literally generates positive free cash flow once every five years! According to Bloomberg, since 1997 Noble has raised from banks and markets net $7.7 billion. Noble’s debt is now almost four billion dollars. (A recent estimate, which Noble has not contested, is that due to repo-style transactions, Noble’s intra-quarter debt is approximately $3 billion greater than reported.)
We are really short Noble’s management. With a company as complex and opaque as Noble, there is no way for investors to definitively answer certain key questions. It becomes a question of how much investors should trust Noble’s management to be straight with them. Noble’s management has adamantly insisted that its accounting is conservative, and by implication, is reflective of reality. We do not believe Noble’s management.
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