Oil bear Andrew Hall parts ways with firm

Andrew Hall, the noted commodity hedge-fund trader who is predicting $50 oil prices, is parting ways with 113-year-old trading firm Phibro as its U.S. desk closes, said a source familiar with the matter.

The energy-trading unit of Philipp Bros., or Phibro, the commodity-trading firm founded in Europe in 1901, has changed hands a number of times, most recently in 2009, when Citigroup sold it to Occidental Petroleum during a government crackdown on large bank pay packages.

But, under pressure to hunker down on its core business of oil and gas production, Houston-based Occidental opted earlier this year to sell the Phibro division.

No buyer was immediately forthcoming, said the source, so this summer Hall, who has divided his time in recent years between Phibro and Astenbeck Capital Management, the commodity hedge fund he founded several years ago, agreed to close the U.S. trading desk. At that point, the source added, the desk was still profitable.

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"Consistent with Occidental's strategic review to focus in core businesses, we announced plans in February 2014 to reduce the company's exposure to proprietary trading activities related to crude oil and other commodities," a company spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. Occidental is still hoping to sell Phibro's overseas trading operations with Hall's help, said the person familiar with the matter. Representatives of Astenbeck didn't respond to a written request for comment.

Hall, a respected figure in oil-trading circles, has told investors this fall that he is bearish on U.S. and foreign oil in the near future, but that he believes the commodity will move higher once the current oversupply issues are resolved.

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