The Noble Group completed the sale of its 49% stake in its agricultural unit to state-owned China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) for US$750M on 4 March.

The sale leaves COFCO as the sole owner of Noble Agri, having bought a 51% stake in the unit for US$1.5bn in 2014.

The unit will be called COFCO Agri and will trade and process a wide range of agricultural products including grains, oilseeds, sugar, cocoa, coffee and cotton.

“The acquisition will greatly accelerate COFCO’s internationalisation and global positioning,” chairman Frank Gaoning Ning has said.

The sale was announced on 15 December and was approved by Noble Group shareholders on 28 January.

Noble chief executive Yusuf Alireza had previously told a shareholder meeting in Singapore that the sale would improve the liquidity and balance sheet of the company. He said although the company was carrying US$2.6bn in debt that was scheduled to mature, these debts could be rolled over.

The Singapore-listed group posted its first annual loss in nearly 20 years on 25 February, reporting a net loss of US$1.67bn for the year ending 31 December against a profit of US$132M a year earlier. Net profit from its underlying businesses more than halved to US$244M.

It said in a Reuters report that it would revert to its core strategy of being an asset-light physical merchant and diversify away from its historical reliance on industrial commodities.

Moody’s Investors Service and Standard and Poor’s recently cut the company’s credit rating to junk based on liquidity concerns amid a struggling commodities market, CNBC said.

Noble shares had fallen more than 70% since February 2015, when a firm called Iceberg Research published a report alleging that the Singapore-listed trader’s accounting treatment was “unusual,” resulted in “fabricated” profit and “intentionally misleads credit agencies and investors.”

Noble has consistently denied the allegations and commissioned an independent review of its accounting from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which found Noble's accounting was in line with international standards.