Energy giant's big play for WA

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

One of the world's biggest trading companies has made a stunning entry into the WA grain market.

Vitol, a Swiss-based and Dutch-owned energy and commodity trader, announced itself as a big new player in WA by buying up about 400,000 tonnes of port capacity for this season's harvest.

Vitol had not signalled it was eyeing a big slice of the State's $3 billion harvest and the move stunned industry insiders.

Its involvement in last week's blind auction for capacity at CBH's four grain terminals was only revealed late yesterday when the official results were posted online.

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Vitol purchased shipping slots at Kwinana from February through to July and a slot at Geraldton in March.

Vitol ships more than 400 million tonnes of crude oil a year and is the world's biggest independent energy trader with revenue of more than $300 billion in 2012.

The company announced in April it had started trading in global grain markets.

Vitol said it would trade grain and other agricultural commodities from Singapore and Geneva, supported by teams based in Vancouver and Hamburg.

"Trading agricultural products builds on our core strengths in logistics and understanding of global markets," Vitol chief executive Ian Taylor said.

Its grains team is headed by Vancouver-based Don Chapman, a former executive with Viterra and Toepfer.

CBH operations manager David Capper said Vitol had signed port access and accumulation agreements with WA's grower-controlled co-operative.

"They have come in big and as far as we are concerned it is great to have more competition for grain," Mr Capper said. "I contacted them today to set up a meeting to welcome them. It is good to have another strong bidder accumulating big tonnes and competing for growers' grain."

Vitol could not be contacted yesterday. It is unclear whether it will buy grain direct from growers or through other traders.

CBH dominated the auction with global giants Glencore, Cargill and Bunge also taking up capacity. The successful bidders included GrainCorp, Toepfer, Plum Grove and Mitsui, while Emerald booked slots at all port terminals.

Gavilon, which sacked most of its Perth staff earlier this year, did not secure shipping slots.

Louis Dreyfus was also missing from the list but is expected to be active in the WA market.

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