Futures & Commodities

CITIC Resources says metal missing from China's Qingdao port

A dock worker inspects large diggers used to transport iron ore at one of the terminals of the Qingdao Port in Qingdao, China.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chinese commodities trader CITIC Resources Holding said on Wednesday that more than 100,000 tons of alumina stored at Qingdao port was missing, deepening fears that firms exposed to a metals financing scam at the port could face big losses.

The Chinese port, the world's seventh busiest, has been at the centre of an investigation looking at whether a private metals trading firm issued multiple warehouse receipts so that the same metal cargo could be used multiple times to obtain financing.

The alumina CITIC had been unable to secure has a value of around $43 million based on current market prices.

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The probe has rattled global metals markets, reflecting market fears about business practices in China and worries that the probe could extend to other ports and prompt a crackdown on using metal as collateral for finance.

"The company has been notified that in the enforcement of the sequestration orders obtained by the group, the Qingdao court has been unable to sequester about 123,446 MT (metric tons) of alumina which the group has stored at Qingdao port," the firm said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

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CITIC Resources said it had title to 223,270 tons of alumina and 7,486 tons of copper stored at the port pending payment by and delivery to buyers.

CITIC Resources is the commodities trading unit of China's biggest and oldest state-owned financial conglomerate company, CITIC Group Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings also holds an 11.46 percent in the unit.

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The Chinese trading firm said it would conduct its own investigation to establish why the court had been unable to enforce its sequestration order in full.

CITIC said it did not have information on the current status of an investigation by Qingdao authorities and was not yet able to accurately assess the impact of the alleged fraud on the company.

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The use of commodities as collateral to raise finance is common practice in China and is not illegal. But duplicating receipts to repeatedly mortgage the full value of an asset is fraud and could leave more than one creditor holding claims to the same collateral.

Panic over the scandal has meant that some copper cargoes held at China's Qingdao Port have been shipped to more regulated London Metal Exchange warehouses, industry sources said.

Global banks including Standard Bank Group and a part-owned unit of Louis Dreyfus, Singapore-listed GKE have warned of potential losses from the scandal.

Standard Chartered has said it is reviewing metals financing to a small number of companies in China and acknowledged there are issues in China around commodity.