November 30, 2016 / 12:00 AM / 8 months ago

Socar Trading expands crude team to target Chinese refiners -CEO

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LONDON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Azeri state oil company Socar's trading division has hired three new crude traders who will be based in London with a view to targeting the Chinese market, its chief executive told Reuters on Tuesday.

Wang Zheng, the former head of crude at Unipec in London, and Xun Dong, a former crude trader at Shell, joined Socar this month and a third trader is due to join in the new year.

"Of course we will exercise their (traders') network in China and access to refineries in China," Socar Trading CEO Arzu Azimov said.

"Our strategy is global crude trading and the missing point so far was coverage of Asia because Asia was mostly concentrated around marketing/supply with national oil companies and government-to-government deals."

Socar Trading plans to sell directly to Chinese refiners, the so-called "teapots", which were given import licenses in 2015. Asian refiners prefer heavier crude, he said.

In Asia, Azeri Light goes to Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and sometimes Taiwan.

As part of its international push, Socar Trading opened trading operations in Calgary and Houston this year adding to its presence in Geneva, Dubai, Singapore and London.

Separately, prior to U.S. sanctions, Socar was engaged in crude oil swaps with Iran, in which Caspian Sea oil deliveries were exchanged for Iranian crude in the Mid-East Gulf. Socar was initially keen to re-establish them after sanctions were lifted this year but there is no longer any upside, Azimov said.

Azimov said Iran was now able to supply its northern refiners with oil from the south, so the price of Caspian oil would have to be competitive and in turn, it has become more difficult for Socar to market the Iranian crude because of destination, currency and price constraints. (Reporting By Julia Payne. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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