Oil Trader Hartree Said to Enter Agriculture After Metals Foray

  • Merchant hired Sharma from Citigroup to lead the new team
  • Move comes after Hartree started trading base metals last year

Hartree Partners LP, a commodities firm founded by two former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. energy traders, is expanding into agriculture a year after moving into industrial metals.

The merchant hired Samrat Sharma from Citigroup Inc. to lead the desk dealing in grains, oilseeds and soft commodities, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the move hasn’t been announced. Sharma joined this week in London, they said.

Hartree, previously known as Hetco and co-owned by Oaktree Capital Management LP-managed funds, specializes in energy and has 10 offices. Its foray into other commodities comes as banks including Morgan Stanley have pulled out of industrial metals, while traditional trading houses such as Louis Dreyfus Co. and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. grapple with crop prices that fell the previous three years.

While the Bloomberg Agriculture Subindex has rebounded 12 percent this year, it’s still down almost 40 percent from a peak in 2012 as bumper harvests from Brazil to Russia overwhelmed demand. Weaker currencies in major producing nations have also encouraged farmers to increase output.

Managing Director Stephen Semlitz founded New York-based Hartree with Stephen Hendel in 1997. The two are credited with transforming Goldman Sachs’s presence in commodities from a small business into one of the two largest on Wall Street in the 1990s alongside Morgan Stanley. They left the bank shortly before its initial public offering to create their own trading house.

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