CME, Thomson Reuters step down from providing London silver benchmark

LONDON (Reuters) - CME Group and Thomson Reuters are to step down from providing the LBMA silver price benchmark auction, the London Bullion Market Association said on Friday, less than three years after they successfully bid to provide the process.

A machine engraves information on an ingot of 99.99 percent pure silver at the Krastsvetmet non-ferrous metals plant, one of the world's largest producers in the precious metals industry, in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

“In consultation with the LBMA, CME Group and Thomson Reuters have decided to step down from their respective roles in relation to the LBMA Silver Price auction,” the LBMA said in a members update seen by Reuters.

The two will continue to operate and administer the silver auction until a new provider is appointed, the LBMA said. It will launch a new tender to appoint an alternative provider to operate the process “shortly”, it said.

“We would be looking to identify a new provider in the summer, and have the new platform up and running in the autumn,” an LBMA spokesman said.

A spokesman for Thomson Reuters confirmed the company was stepping down from the process. CME could not immediately be reached for comment.

The two companies launched the LBMA silver price in August 2014 to replace the telephone-based London silver “fix”, which had been in operation for more than a century, with an electronic, auction-based and auditable alternative.

CME Group provides the electronic auction platform for the benchmark, while Thomson Reuters is responsible for administration and governance. The LBMA owns the intellectual property rights.

The original contract term was five years, running to 2019, the LBMA said. Participants in the current process include China Construction Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase Bank, Morgan Stanley, ScotiaMocatta, the Toronto Dominion Bank and UBS.

There were some teething problems with the process. In January 2016, the auction lasted an unprecedented 60 rounds as prices gridlocked around the $14.00 an ounce level.

The previous ‘silver fix’, along with similar financial benchmarks, had come under increasing scrutiny following the scandal over the manipulation of the LIBOR rate in the foreign exchange market.

Reporting by Jan Harvey; Editing by Ruth Pitchford