LONDON (Reuters) - One of the world’s largest oil traders, Gunvor Group, plans to grow via ventures and could acquire stakes in businesses such as shipping or refining with partners, its founder Torbjorn Tornqvist told Reuters.
Such ventures would be an alternative way of accessing capital as opposed to a sale of stakes in the company, in which Tornqvist still owns around 64 percent with the rest belonging to some 200 employees.
“I don’t know where I should put my money where it would give a better return, quite frankly. As long as I have that feeling that I know what I‘m doing, then I think it’s a good investment,” Tornqvist told the Reuters Global Commodities Summit.
Tornqvist said Gunvor, which trades 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, has hired Jan Andersen, formerly the head of Glencore’s shipping arm ST Shipping, to revamp its Clearlake Shipping arm.
In July, Gunvor joined forces with U.S.-listed shipper TOP Ships (TOPS.O) for a 50/50 venture for two newly built refined products tankers.
Gunvor has since entered into similar agreements on 10 vessels and is planning to expand further - mainly in refined products and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
“There are many ways to skin a cat. There is plenty of cash out there looking for yield and investment of any kind. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are offering an investment in our company ... there are many ways I can think about some aspects of our business where you can find partnerships and sometimes we look at investments and we team up with somebody.”
The Baltic Dry Index .BADI, a key sea freight index that tracks rates for ships carrying dry bulk commodities, hit its highest in nearly four years in September, while benchmark supertanker rates have recovered from multi-month lows, along with the oil price LCOc1, which neared $60 a barrel last month.
“We are in partnership with a few shipowners and managers and we have ordered ships and we are looking at this segment,” Tornqvist said. “However it’s an investment class full of pitfalls and if we feel this market becomes oversized, we will be very cautious.”
Tornqvist also said Gunvor could consider partnerships in oil refining. The trading house has three refineries in Europe but Tornqvist said the partnerships could include other assets.
Gunvor’s rivals such as Glencore (GLEN.L), Vitol and Trafigura have been exploring the partnership model for a number of years and have sold stakes to strategic partners in their oil storage and refining businesses.
Tornqvist said Gunvor was expected to boost traded volumes in 2017 and further in 2018 as it ramps up operations in the United States after opening the first office in Houston in 2016.
Today, Gunvor has more than 60 employees in North America, including Houston, and an office in Stamford, which is opening this week. It is also opening an office in Calgary, Canada.
U.S. operations would focus on domestic trading, as well as the import and export of crude oil and oil products, including LPG, and natural gas, Tornqvist said. Last year, Gunvor traded 187 million tonnes of commodities on a turnover of $47 billion.
Tornqvist said he saw oil prices trading in the mid to upper $50 per barrel range over the next year.
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Reporting by Amanda Cooper; Editing by David Evans and Dale Hudson