LONDON, May 19 (Reuters) - The international physical steam coal market has become increasingly liquid and tradeable during the past five years.
Physical global seaborne coal trade is likely to be over 700 million tonnes in 2009, up from 500 million in 2004, and to keep growing as world demand for coal rises, led by China and India.
End-users still buy the majority of their coal under term contracts but spot trade has boomed and changed in nature during the past two years.
As recently as 2007, most spot trades were simple bilateral deals involving two counterparties. The entry of traders, banks, funds and brokers into the market led to much greater liquidity. Chains of multiple counterparties are becoming the norm.
These new players are also seeking cleared trading of coal swaps and physical cargoes, to introduce some of the tools and methods long-established in the oil market.
Electronic trading platform globalCOAL has over 300 members but there are probably only 25-30 companies actively trading physical coal internationally, traders said.
Swiss-headquartered global commodity giant Glencore GLEN.UL [ID:nLF955430] has dominated physical trade for over a decade but coal is now attracting other heavyweight oil traders such as Vitol VITOLV.UL, Trafigura and Mercuria. [ID:nLE154475] [ID:nLO410484].
Banks have been established players in coal swaps for several years but are becoming more active physical traders.
Morgan Stanley MS.N, Merrill Lynch MERUS.UL and Macquarie Bank MQG.AX trade in both the Atlantic and Pacific markets. RBS Sempra, the joint trading venture between Royal Bank of Scotland RBS.L and Sempra Energy SRE.N were hampered by credit issues earlier this year but have more of a market presence now, traders said.
Since its acquisition of Constellation's CEG.N coal trading team, Goldman Sachs has expanded its already active coal swaps business into a growing physical coal book.
EDF Trading, the London-headquartered subsidiary of Electricite de France EDF.PA, was the first European utility to develop a substantial coal trading book several years ago.
EDFT is one of the world’s largest traders of physical coal and coal swaps, an example being emulated by other utilities which have set up trading arms.
RWE RWEG.DE is growing its European coal trading business with a new Singapore office, and has been participating in supply tenders in new areas. RWE won a large chunk of the recent tender awarded by Mexican state utility CFE.
Dusseldorf-based E.ON Trading, a subsidiary of E.ON EONGn.DE, the world's largest utility by sales, also aims to branch out from buying coal for its plants' consumption by setting up a separate coal trading book and team to trade physical coal and derivatives.
PHYSICAL COAL TRADING COMPANIES:
GLENCORE is as much a producer as it is a trader of coal through its 35 pct stake in global miner Xstrata Plc XTA.L, which has coal mining interests in Australia, South Africa, Canada and Colombia. Glencore subsidiaries also own 70 pct of South African miner Shanduka Coal.
CARGILL is a Geneva-headquartered global producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products. Coal is a small part of Cargill’s business but the group has been buying stakes in coal mines and developing an Atlantic and Pacific trading book for the past few years.
VITOL GROUP, one of the world’s largest oil traders, began trading coal in 2005 and has become one of the most active players in the Atlantic and Pacific markets. Vitol’s turnover was $191.17 billion in 2008.
TRAFIGURA, also one of the world’s largest independent oil traders, with turnover of $73 billion in 2008, recently hired two ex-Noble Group coal traders to start a coal book.
MERCURIA ENERGY GROUP LTD, one of the top 5 independent energy traders, already trades coal swaps and is seeking to hire physical coal traders.
LOUIS DREYFUS HIGHBRIDGE ENERGY LLC is headquartered in the U.S. and trades coal among other oil and energy products.
BULK TRADING SA is one of the Lugano-based independent trading companies which have been active players in coal trade globally for many years.
FLAME SA, established in 2003, is another Lugano-based independent energy trader active in Atlantic and Pacific physical coal trade.
PEABODY ENERGY is the world’s largest private-sector coal company with 2008 revenues of $6.6 billion. Peabody trades physical coal and swaps from offices in the U.S., UK and in Asia.
UTILITY TRADERS OF PHYSICAL COAL:
EDF TRADING, London-based trading arm of Electricite de France.
RWE Supply & Trading, headquartered in Essen, Germany with offices in the UK and across Europe, acts as the hub of the RWE group’s energy trading activities including gas, power and coal.
Dutch utility NUON, although a relatively small European utility compared to E.ON and EDF, became one of the most active traders of coal swaps and physical coal.
Essent, another Dutch utility, has been increasing its physical and swaps coal trade via its Swiss-based trading office. [ID:nLF974920].
BANK TRADERS OF PHYSICAL COAL:
MACQUARIE GROUP has been growing its physical and swaps trading business from offices in Australia and the UK.
RBS Sempra Energy
Deutsche Bank is due to start a physical coal trading book in June from its London offices. (Reporting by Jackie Cowhig; editing by James Jukwey)
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