LME WEEK: How was it for you? Diary of LME week 2012

Sunday night: Arrive; drink mineral water; eat complex carbohydrates; examine schedule of meetings and parties – eight per day of the former and at least two to three per day of the latter. Ruin all that good work with the vodka shots being liberally passed around at the KGHM bash. It’s started.

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Sunday night: Arrive; drink mineral water; eat complex carbohydrates; examine schedule of meetings and parties – eight per day of the former and at least two to three per day of the latter. Ruin all that good work with the vodka shots being liberally passed around at the KGHM bash. It’s started.

Monday: Meeting starts 8am. Am caught out when trying to find my way to Metal Bulletin pub lunch, though. A trader tells me it’s taking place in a hotel suite in Mayfair. When I get there, it’s actually the party held by the Hong Kong Exchange. Am I the butt of a joke? Or is the trader losing his memory? (Note to self: find out and respond accordingly.) I don’t speak Mandarin (yet) so leave. He tells me later that most popular beer at Metal Bulletin lunch was Crafty Devil. Maybe appropriate? Meet trading counterpart for dinner along with our wives, after eating sushi at Mitsui cocktail party. I return to hotel before two in the morning. My wife comes back after four having had raucous night in a club. (Note to self: don’t let others know my wife out-caroused me. I’ll be doing shots all year.)

Tuesday: Bacon sandwich for my wife before she departs. Standard Bank lunch. Follow the headlines, says Standard Bank’s Steve Reece. Meet friends in quiet pub in City. Discuss the copper market, business, credit, the changes facing banks, the return of Ashley Levett to the market with Levmet, but trading iron ore, steel. Note that Chris Adams has joined them to do their non-ferrous business. Not an algo trader in sight! Machines can’t chat to their mates about the market over a pint. (At least, not yet.) At party ahead of LME dinner, am talking to someone on the physical side when his face tightens. “Hang on! That bloke owes me £20,000 from 2008!” And he’s off to chase down his debtor from the GFC. See two traders getting a bracing talking-to from their bosses. Tough game. Another trader informs me that if he hadn’t gone into metals, he would have been a rock star. Mind boggles. Watch trader stare down doorman at party she does not have an invite to, and ride in on her coat-tails. She’s not getting told off by anyone. (Note to self: use techniques of silence more often.)

LME dinner: People talk through the speeches, as usual. But when Charles Li speaks in Chinese, there’s a visceral feeling in the room among the non-Mandarin speakers: this is happening. An Asian company has bought the exchange. (Note to self: learn Mandarin. Or hire Mandarin speaker to accompany me everywhere from this point onwards.) Li seems to impress people with his direct approach to the challenges the LME faces, and his embrace of its future, and it will be interesting to see how he follows up on this strong performance when the HKEx’s deal to buy the LME is cleared later this year. Peter Mandelson’s speech is a cracker. He’s knowing and combative, and takes swipes at himself, Goldman Sachs, Xstrata, Glencore, Ivan Glasenberg, Tony Blair and all points between, then rounds it off by warning the HKEx to look after the LME. In a nod to the marriage simile that Li used, Mandelson responds by saying that the 2,200 guests are the LME’s brothers and woe betide another man who mistreats her. (Note to self: try to book Mandelson for the company’s Christmas dinner; in any case, emulate his fearless, deadly charm in all future encounters.)

Wednesday: More meetings, have two breakfasts – then lunch at a tavern. Pints, steaks, wine, eggs. (Question to self: would a gastric band next year help or hinder? Too late for a food diary this year.) Then off to Freeport party, where the oysters, paella, ham and desserts banish thoughts of diet. Copper man Richard Adkerson says that if this is as bad as it gets, then how bad can it be? Still got to be foolhardy to short copper. Sucden’s 60th birthday is monumental. They have created a full-sized ring at their Old Billingsgate venue. A ticker carries exhortations: “Mike O says get your dancing shoes on ... £250 fine if you’re not dancing in the ring”, as well as forex rates and food and drink suggestions. Someone quips: “But can I take my jacket off?” Beef wellington goes down well on top of Spain’s finest cuisine, I feel. Talk to an options trader who says he’s up 70% year-on-year. Ask whether I can leave some money with him.

Thursday: Must have been a late night because when I get back to my hotel the FT and The Sun were already hanging on the door. But when did I last speak to my family? Or travel by means other than taxi? Or fall asleep before two? Take me to the airport and let me out of here. I’m finished.

As told to Metal Bulletin, by those that were there

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