• Ex-Morgan Stanley traders Rajiv Panicker, Lou Montilla leave
  • Glencore seeking to bolster LNG business it entered in 2013

Glencore Plc hired liquefied natural gas traders from Noble Group Ltd. as it steps up competition with rival trading houses including Vitol SA and Trafigura Group Pte.

Alejandro Sanchez Gestido and Gabriel Gonzalez Laguna will join the biggest listed commodity trader in the coming weeks, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter. Rajiv Panicker and Lou Montilla, two former Morgan Stanley & Co. traders who helped the Baar, Switzerland-based company enter the LNG market in 2013, have left, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Noble declined to comment. Panicker didn’t respond to an e-mail and Montilla couldn’t be reached.

After hiring the Morgan Stanley team in 2013, Glencore has been looking for physical LNG trading opportunities as the market prepares for a wave of new supply from Australia to the U.S. The former head of LNG, Luis Lesmes, died in 2014.

New importers from Egypt to Jordan and Pakistan boosted LNG demand at a time when purchases from the world’s biggest buyers in Asia is slowing. LNG supply rose by 4 million metric tons to 250 million tons last year, and another 125 million tons is under development, according to Wood Mackenzie Ltd., an industry consultant.

Gonzalez Laguna and Sanchez Gestido joined Noble from Bank of America Corp. in 2014 to restart its LNG trading from London. Noble won slots in Egypt, and provided cargoes to buyers in both the Pacific and Atlantic basins. The company said in December it signed its first contract to supply cargoes to an end-buyer in the Asia-Pacific region and that its LNG volume reached 2 million metric tons in less than 18 months.

That compares with 4.2 million tons bought and sold last year by Trafigura, the world’s biggest independent LNG trader. Vitol, which hasn’t yet released its 2015 LNG trading volumes, delivered over one million tons in 2014.

Glencore hired Gordon Waters from BP Plc in Singapore last year for its LNG business, after Maggie Jia, the fourth trader from the original ex-Morgan Stanley team, left the company. It also hired Shi Yang, another trader in Singapore, from CNOOC Ltd. last month. The new team will work from the company’s offices in London and Singapore.

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