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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Senior COFCO Traders Leave to Join Freepoint Commodities

Victor Osle, global head of wheat trading at COFCO and Matt Halsall, head of corn trading at the group have left their positions with COFCO in Geneva, Switzerland to join the newly launched agricultural trading unit at Stamford, Connecticut-based Freepoint Commodities.

Freepoint Commodities, which has been a serious player in trading oil, gas, power, and metals for thirty years, first announced it was venturing into agricultural commodities in the fourth quarter of last year. Company founder, David Messer told the Reuters annual Commodities Summit that the decision was made in order to capitalize upon the void created by the decision of multiple global banks to pull out of trading in agricultural commodities after volatility caused commodities revenue to fall by 18% at the ten largest banks in 2013.

Barclays Plc, Credit Suisse, DZ Bank, and its subsidiary Union Investment, JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, UBS, and the Royal Bank of Scotland all announced their withdrawal from soft commodity markets, giving other firms a view to an opportunity.

After Freepoint saw its most profitable year on record in 2015, the firm hired three traders – Doug Beddome, formerly with Lansing Trade Group, Brian Aust from AgSpring, and Ryan Vota who was formerly with Noble Group to staff a new agricultural trading desk to be headquartered in Leawood, Kansas, according to Bloomberg.

The launch of the ag desk brought Freepoint Commodities to 13 office across the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia.

“We continue the build out of our agricultural business…and grow our business both domestically and internationally,” a Freepoint spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal in an email.

The departure of the two senior traders comes at a dynamic crossroads for COFCO. Just weeks ago the group announced it has agreed to acquire the remaining 49 percent stake it does not already own in the Dutch grain trading firm, Nidera from Cygne BV, bringing its ownership of Nidera to 100 percent.

The deal, which is scheduled to close in the fourth quarter of this year, is a significant move by COFCO under its strategic plan to organize its global agri-business into a leading commodity platform equal to the top four ABCD companies of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus.

Earlier this year COFCO announced the successful completion of the acquisition of the remaining 49 percent it did not own in Noble Agri for $750 million and the creation of COFCO Agri Ltd. – a new entity that encompasses 45 asset locations across 29 countries with the handling capacity of 47 million tons of product.

Now, with the total acquisition of both companies, COFCO plans to integrate the separate operations, giving the group the ability to leverage COFCO Agri’s asset base with Nidera’s origination and trading network capabilities. The integration plan which will establish COFCO’s flagship global agribusiness platform, will be led by Matt Jansen, who has been CEO of both COFCO International and COFCO Agri since March 2016.

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