Oil firms review Gunvor trade after US sanctions co-founder

LONDON, March 21 Fri Mar 21, 2014 9:39am EDT

LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) - Oil companies reviewed their dealings with Russian trader Gunvor but did not yet alter business links, industry sources said on Friday, after the United States imposed sanctions on its billionaire co-founder.

The United States added Gennady Timchenko to its sanctions list on Thursday, forcing him to sell his near 50 percent Gunvor stake to Chief Executive Officer Torbjorn Tornqvist earlier this week in order to keep it running.

Following the sanctions and stake sale, one major oil company had an internal debate as to whether it could still trade with Swiss-based Gunvor, which trades crude, refined oil products and other commodities including natural gas and coal.

"We reviewed everything earlier today. We needed to be convinced of the flow of money and check into the new shareholding to see the implications," said a senior executive at the company.

After reviewing the matter, the company decided it could still trade with Gunvor with no restrictions, because Gunvor is technically not under Timchenko, the executive and a separate trading source said.

Gunvor was active in the oil market on Friday, buying a cargo of gasoline from France's Total in Asia.

A trading source with a U.S. oil company said the firm would be wary of trading with Gunvor.

"U.S. companies are normally cautious, so it will be difficult for them," the source said.

Timchenko, who co-founded Gunvor in 1997, was among several Russian businessmen placed under U.S. sanctions on Thursday, over Russia's intervention in Ukraine. The U.S. Treasury said Russian President Vladimir Putin has investments in Gunvor.

Gunvor said on Thursday it was outraged by the Treasury's linkage of Putin and Gunvor and that Timchenko's stake sale was in order to "ensure with certainty the continued and uninterrupted operations" of Gunvor. (Additional reporting by Seng Li Peng in Singapore; Editing by Veronics Brown and William Hardy)

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