Noble Group Ltd. has said it is negotiating a sale of its 49% stake in agricultural business Noble Agri Ltd. Hong Kong-headquartered Noble declined to name the potential buyer, but a source with knowledge of the talks told The Deal's Paul Whitfield that China's state-owned grain trader Cofco Corp., which owns 51% of the unit, was the counterparty. 'A deal will value the unit at about $750 million, rising to about $1 billion depending on payments linked to future performance,' said the source. Noble CEO Yusuf Alireza is under pressure to raise cash and secure Noble's investment-grade credit rating after a collapse in the value of the commodities his company trades fed through into a 27% decline in inventory value in the third quarter. At the same time, a fall in adjusted funds from operations, which strips out working capital movements, left Noble's net-debt-to-Ebitda ratio at an uncomfortably high 3.6 times at the end of September. The Deal's Senior Reporter Lisa Allen has the details from New York.