* Revenues rise 1.3 percent to $307 billion in 2013
* Vitol sees significantly slower growth since 2011
* CEO cites 'very challenging year', new opportunities
(Adds details paragraphs 3 and 9, link to factbox)
By Ron Bousso
LONDON, March 24 Top oil trader Vitol's revenues
were flat in 2013 despite higher crude and product volumes as
increased competition led to another year of single-digit
The Swiss-based trader's revenues in 2013 reached $307
billion, up 1.3 percent from 2012, when they were $303 billion,
according to its results statement on Monday.
The independent trader did not disclose its profits. Even
though its revenue growth slowed in 2013, Vitol still is widely
considered the world's biggest independent oil trader.
Total revenues have risen by more than 60 percent since
2008, the pace of growth has slowed markedly in the last two
years. After recording revenues of $297 billion in 2011, they
have since grown by just 3.5 percent.
"2013 was a very challenging year for many in the physical
energy distribution business. Markets remained extremely
competitive with new entrants increasing margin pressure on
certain regional activity," Vitol Chief Executive Officer Ian
Traded volumes of crude and refined oil products in 2013
outpaced revenue gains, rising 5.7 percent to 276 million
tonnes, or 5.5 million barrels-per-day, around 6 percent of
global oil demand.
The small gain in revenues was linked in part to a drop of
around 2.3 percent in the average price of benchmark Brent crude
oil in 2013 from a year earlier.
New state-of-the-art refineries built in the United States,
the Middle East, Russia and Asia have dramatically changed oil
trade flows in recent years and increased competition among
trading houses such as Glencore, Trafigura
and Gunvor as well as national oil companies.
"While these market conditions aren't expected to change
overnight, changing supply and demand balances are generating
some new opportunities," Taylor said.
Vitol, which has significantly expanded its refining and
retail business over the past year, may make further investments
as oil majors seek to reduce their refining and trading assets,
"We continue to see investment opportunities in the mid and
downstream as the majors focus their activities upstream," he
Last December, Vitol made its second foray into European
refining in as many years when it formed a joint venture with
private equity firm Carlyle Group called Varo Energy to
own refining and distribution assets in Switzerland and
And last month Vitol said it was buying Royal Dutch Shell's
Australian refinery and petrol stations for about $2.6
billion in its biggest acquisition.
Vitol already has refining operations in the United Arab
Emirates, Switzerland and Antwerp.
At the same time, the exodus of several major banks from
commodity trading in recent years due to lower profits and
higher regulatory scrutiny has impacted Vitol.
"The withdrawal of some investment banks from commodity
related actives has reduced liquidity in markets such as power,
but created longer term opportunities and our footprint in both
the US and Europe is growing," Taylor said.
Vitol could face an even more competitive environment in
2014 as Swiss-based trader Mercuria is set to catapult into the
top league of trading houses after it bought JPMorgan's
physical commodities business for $3.5 billion last week.
Russia's top oil producer is also expected to increase its
footprint in global trading after it agreed late last year to
buy much of Morgan Stanley's physical oil-trading business.
(Additional reporting by David Sheppard; editing by Veronica
Brown, Stephen Powell and Jane Baird)