COMMENT: An exciting start to the year, especially for Glencore’s Blumgart

The third week of calendar year 2012 went off frantically as far the metal markets go.

The third week of calendar year 2012 went off frantically as far the metal markets go.

Metal Bulletin reported on changes among the top tier of staff at Glencore, the commodities trader and producer which listed last year, when
it followed up a tip-off that the co-head of the company’s aluminium and alumina division Steven Blumgart was set to leave the company.

Blumgart, a member of Glencore’s management committee, is the first senior trader to depart since May’s IPO and his exit was duly picked up on and reported by the wider media.

Glencore ceo Ivan Glasenberg has planned and worked hard to convince investors that employee shareholders would not quit the company after the listing. The restructuring that has attended Blumgart’s departure shows that the company has promoted and focused on key areas in a way that gives ballast to Glasenberg’s objective of keeping his skilled and experienced staff in place after the IPO windfall.

But there is more to life than Glencore.

Reporters covering ores and alloys for Metal Bulletin were more focused on developments in the silico-manganese and ferro-chrome markets over the past few days.
In the former sector, at what was characterised as an emergency meeting, silico-manganese producers in India agreed to set a floor price in a market that has risen sharply since the start of the year.

This development has followed moves in Indonesia recently, where producers got together and refused to sell tin below a certain price, and China, where cobalt consumers also met to discuss an acceptable level for prices for the feed for their refineries. It prompts a more far-reaching question: what is the role of the pricing ring in modern metal markets? – a subject to which Metal Bulletin plans to return.

In chrome, meanwhile, Zimbabwean ore producer Zim Alloys stopped mining last week, and DCM Decometal and Assmang cut alloy production — stories which Metal Bulletin covered exclusively.

There was marginally less broader media interest in these nitty-gritty market pieces: perhaps commodities are not quite so mainstream as the interest in Blumgart’s departure suggested?

Meanwhile, the pressure on European aluminium producers will likely mount as a result of draft guidelines on the provision of state aid to energy intensive industry.

Oh, and Metal Bulletin pushed on with its new daily premiums for aluminium, zinc, lead and nickel for a range of global locations, in addition to the copper premiums we launched last year.

It all leaves us wondering what will happen in the fourth week of the calendar year.

Alex Harrison
Twitter: @alexharrison_mb

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