Gunvor has reported a more than doubling of its full-year profits, becoming the latest commodity trader to reveal bumper earnings for 2021 when it cashed in on rising demand for energy as lockdown restrictions eased.
The Geneva-based company controlled by billionaire Torbjorn Tornqvist said on Tuesday its net income hit $726mn in the year to December, with trading volumes jumping 25 per cent to 240mn tonnes.
The figure is the highest profit recorded by the company other than for 2015, when it banked a large gain from the sale of a majority stake in a Russian oil terminal. Gross profit was $1.54bn.
“Underlying profit drivers included natural gas and LNG, which generated sustainable earnings throughout the year,” the company said in a statement. “Gunvor continued to strengthen its balance sheet and maintains a healthy liquidity position.”
Revenue hit $135bn, up sharply from $50bn, as oil and gas prices rebounded following the pandemic and Gunvor shipped more commodities around the world. Brent crude rose by more than 50 per cent in 2021, while gas prices rallied sharply in the second half of the year amid an energy crisis in Europe.
Gunvor joins rivals Vitol, Mercuria, Trafigura and Glencore in reporting huge profits for 2021 on the back of booming demand for raw materials and supply chain disruptions created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Analysts reckon 2022 could be another strong year for the industry but only for traders that have access to large credit lines and can manage the volatility caused by the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.
Hard-hitting measures imposed on Moscow have created lucrative arbitrage opportunities and a reordering of global trade flows but financing trading positions has become more capital-intensive.
Gunvor cut trading positions in the autumn after a gas price spike triggered margin calls — demands for extra cash to cover its hedging positions — from brokers and exchanges.
However, over the past five months it has secured more than $3bn of credit facilities and loans and has continued to trade normally in spite of “erratic” price movements.
Gunvor has pulled back from Russia since 2014, when the US imposed sanctions on Gennady Timchenko, its Russian co-founder, for his alleged ties to President Vladimir Putin.
Timchenko sold his stake to Tornqvist just before the sanctions were announced and has departed from the company.
In the past five years, Russian-origin commodities have accounted for just 6-11 per cent of Gunvor’s trading activities.
Like many of its rivals, the company said it was legally obliged to fulfil existing trading contracts, which are not under sanctions, with Russian oil and gas producers. However, it has decided not to open any new business.
Speaking at the FT Commodities Global Summit last month, Tornqvist said he was open to the idea of selling a stake in the company, which was founded in 2000, to expand its activities.
“For us to go and really, shall I say, exploit the potential of the company, it would be desirable to explore additional equity,” he said. “We are open to find an alliance which could increase the size of the company.”
Tornqvist owns nearly 89 per cent of Gunvor and in 2019 held talks about selling a stake to Algeria’s state oil and gas producer Sonatrach.