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Gunvor starts iron ore trade, from Singapore

LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) - Commodity house Gunvor now trades iron ore as part of its strategy to diversify in both what it deals where it operates, the company said on Thursday.

Privately-owned Gunvor has stared trading physical iron ore and iron ore derivatives from Singapore, the main trading centre for the steelmaking ingredient widely consumed in China.

Gunvor has hired traders Darren Toh, previously at steel trader Stemcor and Brett Suann an iron ore veteran previously at BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi.

It also hired Dan Brebner, a metals analyst formerly at Deutsche Bank.

The Geneva-based company is the latest of a number of trading houses trying their luck in iron ore, the world's second largest traded commodity by volume after oil, with over 1.2 billion tonnes shipped by sea every year.

"We have an increasing presence in Asia, and iron ore is a growing market and a good business for Gunvor, since it complements our trade into China," said Gunvor spokesman Seth Pietras.

The company already has shipping and logistics in place for iron ore through its existing dry-bulk shipping arm, which has transported more than 15 million tonnes of iron ore last year across Brazil and Australia, he added.

Brazil's Vale, and Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton are the world's largest iron ore miners and send hundreds of millions of tonnes of iron to top steel producer and consumer China every year.

Gunvor's competitors in the energy sector such as Vitol and Mercuria have already opened iron ore desks to take advantage of a market that has opened to new players after a decades-old annual benchmark pricing system crumbled in favour of short-term pricing in 2010.

Gunvor came under the spotlight last week after the United States slapped sanctions on its former co-owner and founder Gennady Timchenko, one of the most loyal businessmen to Russia's president Vladimir Putin.

Timchenko sold his 43 percent stake in Gunvor to Chief Executive Torbjorn Tornqvist last week and U.S. officials said the firm will avoid U.S. sanctions.

(Editing by Dmitry Zhdannikov and William Hardy)