Noble Group hires ex-Trafigura oil trader in Dubai, even as another in Europe plans to leave

Noble Group's chief aluminum trader in Europe Erik Gundersen will leave the Asian commodities merchant, according to sources.
Noble Group's chief aluminum trader in Europe Erik Gundersen will leave the Asian commodities merchant, according to sources.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Noble Group Ltd. hired former Trafigura Pte Ltd. executive Wael Amer to expand its Middle East and African oil-trading business as the Asian commodities firm restructures its operations.

Based in Dubai, Mr Amer will report to Middle East and Central Asia Chief Operating Officer Raj Kapoor as well as Global Head of Oil Liquids Jeff Frase, the company said Thursday in a statement.

 At Trafigura he was head of Middle East and African oil trading. The creation of Amer's position comes amid a shakeup of Noble's executive ranks and a shift in focus after the Hong Kong-based firm faced scrutiny over its accounting.

Noble is reallocating funds from units including copper and zinc trading to operations such as oil liquids to use capital more efficiently.

Noble Group's chief aluminum trader in Europe Erik Gundersen will leave the Asian commodities merchant, three sources familiar with the matter said, as the shake-up of its loss-making metals and mining division widens.

The exact timing of his departure is not known, the sources who are not authorised to speak to the press, said.

A spokesman for Asia's biggest commodity trader declined to comment. Efforts to reach Mr Gundersen, who is based in London, were unsuccessful.

News of his planned exit comes after two of his US counterparts, Mr Scott Evans and Mr Jeff Romanek, who handled copper, lead and zinc, left the company on Tuesday (Oct 6).

The departures come as the company seeks to shore up its balance sheet and reduce its exposure to capital-intensive operations like trading copper, and returns to its historic roots in aluminum and alumina.

The mining and metals segment, which accounted for about 20 per cent of the group's US$18 billion (S$25.4 billion) revenue in the second quarter, swung to a loss in the quarter for the first time since 2010 when the company started reporting operating income from supply chains.

It posted an operating loss from supply chains of US$19 million after an unprecedented drop in aluminum premiums AL-Prem. That compared with a profit of US$161 million in the same period last year.

Commodity traders carrying big inventory on behalf of customers have been hit by the collapse in surcharges, which are paid on top of the benchmark London Metal Exchange prices for physical delivery this year.

The company has said it will seek options, including selling core businesses, to boost market confidence after a bruising accounting dispute.

Mr Gundersen has been with Noble for over nine years, joining from Norsk Hydro, the Norwegian aluminum producer, according to his LinkedIn profile.

It is not known what the traders will be doing next.