(Reuters) - Energy trading companies have branched out into buying refining capacity, storage and oil and gas fields to complement their core activities.
A record rally last year drove prices to nearly $150 a barrel and increased the cost of trading for some firms that were punished by hefty margin calls.
Then the financial rout that began last year had a drastic impact on the availability of credit.
Some trading houses have sold off assets. For others, there are bargains to be had and they could make acquisitions provided they can get the credit and assets fit with specific trading needs.
Below are some details about the main independent trading houses in alphabetical order. Information is taken from company websites and Reuters.
Glencore International AG GLEN.UL
Founded in 1974, Swiss-based Glencore International supplies a wide range of commodities -- including metals, minerals, crude oil, oil products, coal and agricultural products.
Turnover for fiscal 2008 was $152.2 billion.
Initially, Glencore focused on the physical marketing of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, minerals and crude oil. It then expanded into oil products and coal and in 1982 acquired an established grain marketing company.
Glencore has three main business groups -- metals and minerals, energy products and agricultural products.
Together with subsidiaries, it has investment in a wide range of commodity production and says it is one of the largest non-integrated oil suppliers by volume.
Glencore’s net profits fell 8.4 percent in 2008 to $4.75 billion and it has sold off some assets.
In March, Colombian state oil firm Ecopetrol said Glencore had agreed to sell to it its assets in the Cartagena refinery, Colombia, for $549 million.
Also in March, mining group Xstrata Plc XTA.L approved the purchase of the Prodeco coal mine in Colombia from Glencore, Xstrata's biggest shareholder, with a nearly 35 percent stake.
In line with other mine operators, Glencore has also shut in production in some of its mines in response to steep falls in commodity demand.
Gunvor International B.V
Gunvor International specializes in the trade, transport and storage of oil and petroleum products.
It was founded in 1997 by Swedish oil trader Torbjorn Torknqvist and Russian businessman Gennady Timchenko.
Gunvor handles about a third of Russian crude exports.
In March, it said it had acquired an oil terminal under construction in the Russian Baltic Sea port of Ust Luga.
Also in March, Gunvor confirmed it had a contract with Ventbunkers, the operator of the Latvian Ventspils oil terminal on the Baltic Sea, for the discharge, storage and transit of middle distillates.
Mercuria Energy Group Ltd
Swiss-owned Mercuria Energy Group ranks itself as one of the world’s five largest independent energy traders with turnover in 2008 of more than $46 billion.
Its product range spans crude oil, fuel oil, middle distillates, naphtha, gasoline.
It also trades power, natural gas, coal, biodiesel, vegetable oils, and carbon emissions.
The firm has more than 30 million barrels of total storage capacity around the world and is active in shipping markets.
It has upstream investments, including Orchard Petroleum in California.
Mercuria is also building a biofuels plant at the Oiltanking terminal in the Port of Amsterdam, due for completion in 2010.
The company owns the Eurodek Terminal oil storage facility in Tallinn, Estonia and the Mercuria Terminals Flushing, in Vlissingen, Netherlands.
Trafigura had turnover of $73 billion in 2008.
The firm trades, ships and stores a range of commodities, including crude oil, refined products, concentrates and refined metals.
It has 1,900 staff in 37 countries.
The firm has access to more than 30 million barrels of storage facilities. In March, it secured a $520 million credit facility.
In metals, Trafigura owns and operates concentrate and storage facilities and two mines, one in Peru and one in Mexico. It also has interests in a smelter and various publicly listed mining entities.
It owns Galena Asset Management, with more than $600 million under management, according to Trafigura’s website.
In March, Mike Scott, the firm’s Asian head of crude oil and crude derivatives told Reuters the firm expected record earnings this fiscal year.
Vitol Group VITOLV.UL
Founded in 1966, Vitol Group’s turnover reached $191.17 billion in 2008. The privately held company has revenues of more than $100 billion.
It ships around 200 million tonnes of oil a year, and also has interests across the energy spectrum, including crude oil and products, gas, power, coal, carbon emissions, shipping, derivatives, ethanol, chemicals, non-ferrous metals and sugar.
Vitol owns more than four million cubic meters of storage throughout the world and plans further investment in this area.
It also has oil exploration and production assets, which include operations in the Philippines, Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, the UK, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Vitol has investments in processing capacity in Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates and an LPG splitter in Nigeria.
In April, Vitol bought up the remaining share of a clean energy project portfolio it co-owned with developers ICECAP Ltd.
Compiled by Harpreet Bhal, Barbara Lewis and Jane Merriman; editing by Sue Thomas
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