Gunvor set for buying spree after windfall: CEO

  • : Biofuels, Crude oil, Electricity, Emissions, Metals, Natural gas, Oil products
  • 24/04/12

Trading firm Gunvor plans to use part of a massive earnings windfall over the past two years to build out its asset base, its chief executive Torbjörn Törnqvist told Argus.

"Today, we are under-invested in assets so we will change that," Törnqvist said, adding that investments would be broad based and to some extent opportunistic. "We will employ quite a lot of capital in investments."

Independent commodity trading companies are sitting on unprecedented piles of cash after two years of bumper earnings arising from supply chain disruptions and market volatility. While Geneva-based Gunvor is smaller than its peers Vitol, Trafigura and Mercuria, it is still a huge company by most metrics. It reported revenues of $127bn in 2023 and a profit of $1.25bn, following a record $2.36bn in 2022. It has kept most of its earnings in house and had an equity position of almost $6.16bn by the end of 2023 — its highest ever.

Törnqvist is eyeing further growth.

"We will definitely be a much bigger company, that I can say," he replied when asked where he saw Gunvor in 10 years' time. "I think we will grow in tune with the [energy] transition."

Trading firms are looking for ways to keep their competitive advantage, particularly given the uncertainties associated with the energy transition. One emerging trend is an appetite for infrastructure. Vitol is in the process of buying a controlling stake in Italian refiner Saras, which operates the 300,000 b/d Sarroch refinery in Sardinia. Trafigura said this week that it is in talks to buy ExxonMobil's 133,000 b/d Fos refinery on the French Mediterranean coast.

Part of the rationale behind these moves is to increase optionality and take advantage of the loss of Russian products to the European market, as well the closure of large chunks of local refining capacity.

Gunvor owns the landlocked 100,000 b/d Ingolstadt refinery in Germany and a 75,000 b/d refinery in Rotterdam, where it plans to shift away from fossil fuel use.

"Many oil refineries have been up for sale and still are," Törnqvist said. Asked if Gunvor was looking for something similar, he said the company is interested in the "right opportunity" whether in upstream, downstream, midstream or shipping.

"It all feeds into what we are doing and all supports our underlying trading," he said.

But Törnqvist suspects a lot of Gunvor's growth will come from gas and power — areas where trading companies are already seeing rising profits. The company made its first investment in a power generation asset late in 2023, when it agreed to buy BP's 75pc stake in the 785MW Bahia de Bizkaia combined-cycle gas turbine plant in Bilbao, Spain. It has signed a slew of LNG offtake agreements in the past year and continues to grow its LNG tanker fleet.

"We're building logistical capabilities in LNG," Törnqvist said.

"Oil is here to stay"

Törnqvist said Gunvor is well placed to navigate the energy transition, and is stepping up investments in renewables and biofuels and expanding into carbon and metals trading.

"There will be disruptions, there will be different paths to the transition in different parts of the world which go at different paces and have different priorities and ways to deal with it," he said. "This will create opportunities."

But Törnqvist is clear that oil and gas will remain an integral part of Gunvor's business.

"We feel that oil is here to stay," he said. "And it will grow for several years."

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