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CEO of commodity trader Trafigura starts handover to successor

11th April 2024

By: Reuters

  

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LAUSANNE - Jeremy Weir, longtime chief executive at commodities trader Trafigura, is priming successor Richard Holtum to take over when he decides to step back into a chairman role, five sources familiar with the matter said.

Trafigura has yet to announce an official transition or a timeline for the change but management reshuffles and the retirements announced last week of two executives have paved the way for a new generation of leadership.

Holtum, the company's global head of gas, power and renewables, has joined Weir in meetings with top clients and banks in recent weeks, sources said, a first step in preparing him for the top job. One of the sources said the transition could take place as soon as this year.

A spokesperson for Trafigura declined to comment.

A former British military man, Holtum has had a meteoric rise at the firm. After joining the trader's liquefied natural gas (LNG) team in 2014 from Glencore, he was promoted to the lead the new division of gas and power in 2019.

Trafigura consolidated division leadership last year and Holtum added renewables to his portfolio.

"Renewable energy is the future. Holtum will step up when Weir decides he wants a quieter life," one of the sources said.

All of the sources requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.

RECORD PROFITS

Along with oil, Holtum's division helped to deliver record profits for the company over the last two years during Europe's energy crisis and extreme market dislocations created by Western sanctions on Russia.

Trading firms say they also see future growth in power markets as the world shifts towards increased electrification and greater use of renewable energy sources. Natural gas is regarded as a bridge fossil fuel due to its lower emissions compared with coal.

Trading houses had bumper profits in 2022 and 2023 after Russia's pipeline gas exports shrank to a tiny fraction of their former volume and gas prices hit record highs in Europe.

Trafigura made $7.4-billion in net profit last year and its group equity has more than doubled since 2020. After Vitol, it is the world's second biggest oil and LNG trader and its copper book rivals that of mining giant Glencore.

The firm is trying to move past some bribery scandals that have also dogged its rivals Vitol, Glencore and Gunvor, and precipitated management changes at the four companies in recent years.

Trafigura resolved a bribery investigation into its oil dealings in Brazil with the US Department of Justice last month and will pay a fine of about $127-million.

The company still needs to resolve charges around its Angolan business. Switzerland's attorney general filed an indictment against Trafigura last year for failing to prevent alleged unlawful payments via a third party to a former employee of Angola's state oil company Sonangol between 2009-2011 and its former chief operating officer Mike Wainwright has been charged with bribery.

Trafigura said it would defend itself in court and that Wainwright rejected the charges and would also defend himself.

A spokesperson for Trafigura denied any connection between the recent retirements of its veteran oil head Jose Larocca and CFO Christope Salmon and "any legal issue, including the former parent company’s recent resolution with the DOJ."

Edited by Reuters

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