Biggest Commodities Traders Doubled Profits to $77 Billion in 2022

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Biggest Commodities Traders Doubled Profits to $77 Billion in 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Some of the world’s biggest commodities traders doubled their profits to around $77 billion last year as global energy prices soared following the easing of pandemic restrictions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

That’s according to an analysis from researchers at Sanford C Bernstein Ltd., who crunched numbers from 11 firms including oil majors BP (NYSE: BP ) Plc, Shell (LON: RDSa ) Plc and TotalEnergies SE as well as trading houses Vitol Group, Gunvor Group Ltd. and Trafigura Group Pte Ltd. The figures underline the importance of trading in the record profits delivered by the European oil majors last year. 

More than half of the total, some $37 billion, came from TotalEnergies, Shell and BP, according to the research. That beat the $28 billion made by the trio of big Swiss trading houses. 

“Volatility plays perfectly into the hands of these companies,” said Oswald Clint, an analyst at Bernstein. 

While trading is a key part of the Big Oil business model for European firms, the detailed results of these operations are opaque and not clearly disclosed by the companies. Earlier this week, BP said gas trading had been “exceptional” in the first quarter and oil trading was “very strong,” but didn’t say exactly how much the businesses contributed to earnings. 

To estimate the amount trading contributes to results, Bernstein used disclosures from the oil majors on various aspects of their businesses and subtracted them from total earnings. What’s left at the end is the is earnings from trading, according to the analysts. 

Trading contributes about $1.6 billion quarterly for BP, a bit more than 18% of the first quarter 2023 profit reported earlier this week. For Shell, the trading total was about $16.6 billion in 2022, roughly 20% of their reported earnings for the year.  

While oil and gas have eased from last year’s highs, price volatility continues to provide opportunities for trading desks. 

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

© Bloomberg. A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. U.S. futures drifted and stocks were mixed as investors weighed earnings from technology heavyweights. Treasuries fell ahead of the Federal Reserve’s rate decision.

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