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From 'Mr Copper' to Lord Farmer, metals trading legend becomes British peer

LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Farmer, among the world’s most famous metals traders and a newly named baron of the British House of Lords, has no intention of abandoning the market that earned him his fortune and his first title: Mr Copper.

The co-founder of the Red Kite Group, an over $2 billion metals trading and investment firm, will remain “in the thick” of the metals business even after becoming one of 22 people who were bestowed a “working peerage” by the government on behalf of the Queen on Friday.

Farmer, a major donor to the Conservative Party who will have the title of Lord after becoming a baron in Britain’s House of Lords, hopes to put his unusual mix of devout Christian values and deep knowledge of the global metals market to good use.

“I hope that my 50 years in the City connected to the London Metal Exchange and the global trading of base metals may be of value as new regulations are formulated for the financial markets,” Farmer, who is also the Conservative Party’s treasurer, told Reuters in his first interview as a baron.

“Also the experience of being an active Christian involved in the markets can be of use in defining good practice.”

Working peers, who are ranked baron or baroness and normally represent political parties, are expected to attend Britain’s House of Lords, Britain’s upper house. It has the role of examining legislation and can delay the passage of law, but ultimately cannot completely derail bills proposed in the lower house, the House of Commons. Unlike hereditary peers, life peers are appointed and their titles cannot be passed on.

The LME, the world’s largest metals trading market place in the heart of the City, is owned by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.

Farmer, ranked 522 on the Sunday Times Rich 2013 List of Britain and Ireland’s wealthiest and worth about 150 million pounds, said he was in favour of good regulation and transparency in markets.

“Causes for concern are proposals being put forward to restrict short selling and limit large positions,” said Farmer.

CONSERVATIVE BOOSTER

Farmer and David Lilley, both alums of the legendary copper trading arm of Metallgesellschaft AG, founded Red Kite Group in 2004. It is now one of the largest metal merchants in the world, with more than $2.3 billion under management at the end of 2013, according to its website.

Red Kite is a big presence in the physicals market as a global merchant. It purchases, finances, insures, transports, processes and sells a mine’s output to end customers.

“As a working Conservative peer, the immediate aim is to help in getting (Prime Minister) David Cameron back into Downing Street with a Conservative majority at the general election next May,” Farmer told Reuters.

“It’s important that the long-term economic plan which the government has put in place is implemented, as well as the government’s welfare and educational reforms.”

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, also leader of the Conservative Party in a government of coalition which faces a 2015 election, has pledged to reform the terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union.

Opponents of the EU in Britain favour less intervention from Brussels in markets which they see as a threat to Britain’s financial centre, the City of London.

Politics aside, Farmer too will remain at the forefront of the metals business.

“I’m certainly in the thick of it and continue to be,” he said. “Over the years I’m sure I’ll ease back, but I’m still very active.”

Editing by Jonathan Leff and Marguerita Choy

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