Freepoint Pushes Into Asia Energy and Metals as Rivals Pull Back

  • Firm hires metals traders in Shanghai, eyes energy as well
  • With banks retreating, ‘we see opportunities’: CEO Messer

Freepoint Commodities LLC is planning a push into Asia, seeking to hire metals and energy traders from Singapore to Shanghai as it moves into the gap left by rival trading houses and the retreat of big banks.

The trading house, co-founded by veteran commodities executive David Messer, has hired three refined metals traders and two assistants in its Shanghai office. Other additions will likely follow in energy, as the Stamford, Connecticut-based company seeks more talent, Messer said in a telephone interview Friday.

“We continue to seek growth opportunities in our physical trading businesses where we can identify niches in the supply chain," said Messer, the company’s chief executive officer. “At the current time, we’re finding multiple opportunities in both metals generally and Asia specifically."

The expansion comes as banks including Deutsche Bank AG, Barclays Plc and Morgan Stanley have scaled back commodity trading, under pressure from regulators. Rival merchant houses Noble Group Ltd. and Grupo BTG Pactual’s Engelhart CTP, meanwhile, have retreated amid financial troubles. Engelhart plans to cut almost 20 percent of its staff and reduce its presence in the metals and energy markets, a person familiar with the situation told Bloomberg News last week. 

Firm’s Expansion

Founded in 2011, Freepoint bought a stake in a Virgin Islands refinery in January, opened an office in Kansas in June for agricultural trading and in August said it was expanding into retail energy sales in the U.S. The company currently has 313 employees, up from about 280 in May. Just 16 of those workers are based in Asia now, working out of Shanghai, Singapore and Beijing, the firm said.

“Our business is focused on three commodity segments: energy, metals and agriculture," Messer said in the interview. “We’re expanding in all three of those segments and we see opportunities in Asia in all three."

Freepoint has hired three refined metals traders -- Christian Jiang, Lee Li and Lucy Lu -- in its Shanghai office, as well as Fiona Ding and Hannah Wang as support staff there, the company said in an e-mailed statement. The trading firm is expanding its physical metals business in zinc, lead and copper, focusing heavily on concentrates. It’s also recently brought on Ian Oxley as a metals trader in its London office. Oxley worked at Societe Generale SA from June 1999 to September 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Hedge Funds

Others have looked to fill the gaps left by bankers as well. Hedge funds, including Ospraie Management LLC-backed Concord Resources Ltd. and Castleton Commodities International LLC, have expanded into trading of non-ferrous metals recently.

Messer and two fellow executives led Sempra Energy Trading Corp.’s growth from a $50 million firm in the late 1990s to $1.5 billion in annual revenue by 2005, according to Freepoint’s website. The firm was sold to the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2008. Messer and his partners founded Freepoint with backing from private-equity firm Stone Point Capital.

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