February 17, 2012 / 5:25 PM / in 6 years

Gunvor trade volumes near record high in 2011

* Turnover slightly below 116 mln tonnes

* Acquires coal mining assets in 2011

By Emma Farge and Dmitry Zhdannikov

LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Swiss-based trader Gunvor maintained its trading volumes in 2011 near record high, a draft document of its performance showed, despite what market players describe as a loss of its top spot in the Russian crude oil export market.

Strong trade volumes came after acquisitions in the coal sector, which the firm expects to account for an increasing share of its trading business and expansion in segments such as natural gas, emissions, freight and liquefied gas.

“In the past year we have diversified into new commodities, markets and segments,” its chief executive officer Torbjorn Tornqvist said in the document.

The Geneva-based firm handled just slightly lower combined volumes of oil, refined products, coal and gas than the 116 million tonnes traded in 2010, the paper showed. The 2010 figure was adjusted from an initial figure of 104 million tonnes.

Geneva-based Gunvor has been for several years a leading exporter of Russian oil under term deals with companies such as Rosneft, Surgut and TNK-BP. At one point it handled as much as 40 percent of overall seaborne exports of the world’s largest oil producer.

But its role has considerably diminished over the past two years as it ceded a leading role to Royal Dutch Shell in marketing Russian crude. An industry source familiar with Gunvor’s operations said Russian oil accounted for roughly 40 percent of its total purchases and that it was diversifying into other grades like South American oil.

Crude oil typically accounts for at least half of Gunvor’s total traded volumes, although its stake in other energy products like fuel oil has been trending higher in recent years.

The document showed that Gunvor is focusing on expanding beyond its core markets of oil and products.

“We have added global coal and freight, emissions and renewables, natural gas and LNG and other commodities to add to our well-established activities in trade, transport and storage of crude and oil products,” Tornqvist said.

Gunvor trebled its staff in 2011 from the previous year to nearly 1,500 people after it acquired a 30 percent stake in Russia’s Kolmar Group with coal mines in Siberia.

It also acquired minority stakes in coal mining assets in South Africa’s Keaton and Signal Peak in the United States where production is set to nearly double to 18-20 million tonnes.

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