Global commodity trader Koch cuts staff in restructuring

HOUSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global commodity trader Koch Supply & Trading has cut dozens of workers across at least four offices worldwide, several sources said on Tuesday, as the firm restructures its business.

The cuts at the unit of Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries Inc, the industrial conglomerate owned by billionaires Charles and David Koch, affected traders and support staff in its United States, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Singapore offices.

A string of notable hedge funds in the commodity space have closed over the last year, while restructuring efforts were launched at firms like Goldman Sachs after losses in 2017.

Some commodity trading firms and banks posted major losses due to muted client activity and wild fluctuations across energy markets. Bonuses across the industry were also low, and some hedge funds have chosen to exit energy trading.

The positions involved at Koch Supply & Trading were primarily in refined products and fuel oil trading and operations, according to the sources.

Koch “made adjustments to its global commodity trading presence to better reflect the current market opportunities,” said spokesman Rob Carlton, adding it would retain an active presence in commodity markets globally.

He declined to comment on the scope of the layoffs, though sources said at least 10 traders globally had been let go at Koch.

Koch’s trading unit is known for having traded the first oil swap over 25 years ago. The privately held company began trading crude oil internationally in 1969, according to an online brochure and employs a total of 500 to 1,000 workers, according to LinkedIn.

The company also had a string of departures in the refined products segment last year, with senior traders and blenders leaving to join a rival, according to three market sources. Koch also exited some tank space in the New York Harbor and Gulf Coast last year, the sources said.

On Monday, trader AOT Energy separately said it had reduced some staff, including parting ways with its senior management team in Houston, and earlier this year pared its European distillates and U.S. Gulf Coast fuel oil business due to shrinking margins.

Several key commodities traders left Goldman Sachs Group Inc earlier this year, sources said, as the Wall Street firm seeks to turn around its commodities unit.

Commodity-focused hedge funds including Andy Hall’s Astenbeck Capital Management and Texas tycoon T. Boone Pickens’ BP Capital have shuttered some operations in recent months.

Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Tom Brown