What recession? Five of the largest crude oil traders have experienced record high profits in an economically turbulent 2009.
Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura, Gunvor and Mercuria are likely to earn between $3.5 billion and $4 billion (2.44-2.79 billion) in total, making 2009 their richest year.
The famous five jointly trade 15% of the worlds crude and oil products output, equal to the combined oil production of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
Vitol is by far the largest, moving about 5.5 million barrels a day. This years bumper earnings were all secured in the first half, while the second half has
been lacklustre, the companies say.
The trading houses have made large sums of money on the back of volatile oil prices, which moved from Januarys low of $32.70 to a year high of $82 in October.
The contango, which reflected weak demand and the fact that supply was not reduced, effectively, until the middle of the year, gave all the industry an opportunity to make good returns, Vitols CEO, Ian Taylor, says.
The traders stored as much oil as they could onshore, boosting the revenues of storage companies such as Rotterdam-based Vopak or Houston-based Kinder Morgan. When these reservoirs reached their capacity, they moved offshore, using oil tankers.