Morgan Stanley Said to Join Barclays, BofA in EU Power, Gas Exit

Morgan Stanley is winding down its European power and natural gas trading, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The New York-based bank, which employs about 15 traders on the desks, is attempting to sell part of the business, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Morgan Stanley left the Polish, Bulgarian and Czech power and gas markets in 2013 and the exit follows those of Deutsche Bank AG, Bank of America Corp. and Barclays Plc. in the past two years.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. were the first two banks to set up large-scale trading operations in Europe’s power and gas markets as they liberalized during the 1990s. Trading declined since 2012 as banks began to withdraw, according to London-based consultant Prospex Research Ltd.

“The banks moving out of commodities has meant there are more people looking for jobs in London than there are positions available,” Shaun Smart, a principal associate at Commodity Appointments in London, said Wednesday by e-mail. “We think that the flow of people leaving banks has largely ended so this will start to tighten in 2015.”

Bank of America cited regulatory changes and weaker client demand when it announced in January 2014 it was exiting Europe’s electricity and gas markets.

German next-year power, a European benchmark, slid 60 percent since 2008 as European nations expanded renewable energy to curb the release of greenhouse gases.

The European Commission imposed a requirement in 2012 for all over-the-counter derivatives transactions to be guaranteed through a central clearing house. The 28-nation EU agreed to impose size limits on commodity trade positions to reduce speculation and will give details of thresholds in July.

The banks’ retrenchment gave trading houses, such as Gunvor Group Ltd., Noble Group Ltd. and Mercuria Energy Group. Ltd., access to a stronger talent pool, Smart said.

“During 2014 we observed that 72 percent of hires made by trading houses can be accounted for by those joining from banks,” he said.

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