TIMELINE-Drexel to Mercuria via Enron: a history of JPMorgan's commodity arm

Wed Mar 19, 2014 10:21am EDT

(Updates Feb. 5 timeline with sale of commodities business to Mercuria)

March 19 (Reuters) - U.S. investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. has sold its physical commodities arm to Mercuria for $3.5 billion in cash, catapulting the Swiss trade house into the top tier of commodities traders.

While parts of JPMorgan's commodities business have passed through the hands of some of the most well-known names in the raw materials markets, its core is comprised of two enterprises considered among the most successful of their time: Sempra Commodities and Bear Stearns' power and gas desk.

But major parts of the JPMorgan business were extracted from the ashes of failure, including a base metals operation that endured through the near-collapse of Metallgesellschaft and the Enron meltdown, and a trading platform that dates back to the days of failed investment bank Drexel Burnham.

More recently, much of the business had already been bought and sold twice in the past five years, once when Royal Bank of Scotland bought a 51 percent stake in Sempra Commodities and then again when RBS was forced to sell it to JPMorgan.

A partial history of the business is below:

THE EARLY YEARS

1980s - Drexel Burnham Lambert expands into physical energy trading, hiring a team that includes future Sempra chiefs David Messer and Frank Gallipoli.

1986 - UK-based warehousing group Henry Bath & Sons is taken over by Metallgesellschaft (MG), a huge German conglomerate and one of the world's largest physical and futures metal traders, according to a history on its website. r.reuters.com/myk56v

Early 1990 - AIG acquires the commodity trading business of Drexel Burnham, which had filed for bankruptcy.

1997 - Pacific Enterprises and Enova Corp acquire the energy unit of AIG Trading for $225 million. (The utilities merge one year later to form Sempra Energy )

2000 - Enron buys UK-listed MG Plc, including Henry Bath warehouses, for $448 million.

ENRON OUT, OTHERS JUMP IN

2002 - Sempra Energy Trading buys Enron Metals Ltd, the former-MG metals division of the failed U.S. Enron for $145 mln. r.reuters.com/kyk56v

2002 - UBS buys Enron's energy trading business in exchange for royalties to Enron creditors. The deal includes leases to several million barrels of oil storage in Canada.

2004 - Sempra Energy Trading is renamed Sempra Commodities. By 2005, the unit contributes more than half of parent company Sempra's net income; makes over half a billion dollars in 2007.

September 2005 - Bear Stearns moves into energy trading through a joint-venture with Calpine. Deal ends six months later, but Bear Stearns continues to expand in the power and gas markets.

November 2006 - Bear Stearns buys Delta Power Co., a private power-plant developer with 1,380 megawatts of capacity.

May 2007 - Bear Stearns' commodity arm buys the electricity trading book, and gas and power contracts of Williams Cos for $512 million, giving it about 7,700 MW of gas-fired tolling capacity and 1,800 MW of full-requirements power supply.

JPMORGAN'S ACQUISITION SPREE

March 2008 - JPMorgan buys Bear Stearns, including its now-large energy trading business.

Early 2008 - JPMorgan buys carbon offsetting company ClimateCare. (The firm's management takes it private in 2011)

April 2008 - Royal Bank of Scotland acquires controlling stake in Sempra Commodities for $1.7 billion to form RBS Sempra Commodities.

February 2009 - JPMorgan buys UBS's global agricultural business and Canadian energy unit in 2009, including two million barrels of long-term oil storage leases.

September 2009 - JPMorgan buys UK-based EcoSecurities, which developed clean energy programs and carbon offsets as part of the Kyoto protocol, for $200 million.

November 2009 - RBS says it will sell its 51 percent interest in RBS Sempra Commodities in exchange for government aid.

July 2010 - JPMorgan closes deal to buy RBS Sempra's global oil and metals business, plus its European gas and power desk, for $1.6 billion. r.reuters.com/jyk56v

October 2010 - JPMorgan buys the North American wholesale gas and power trading book of RBS Sempra for $220 million. The value of the gross assets was put at $6 billion as of June, and the business had recorded pre-tax profits of $22 mln in the first six months of the year. r.reuters.com/hyk56v

June 2012 - Freepoint Commodities acquires metals concentrates business from JPMorgan.

July 2013 - JPMorgan announces plan to explore "strategic alternatives" for its physical commodity trading division amid margin and regulatory pressure to quit risky businesses.

February 2014 - Mercuria enters exclusive negotiations to buy JPMorgan's physical commodities business, sources say.

March 19 2014 - Mercuria buys the physical commodities business of JPMorgan for $3.5 billion, with the all-cash transaction expected to close in the third quarter of 2014. (Writing by Shadi Bushra and Jonathan Leff, editing by David Evans)