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Cofco Corp. Loses Top Grains Traders to Freepoint Commodities

Cofco Corp. Loses Top Grains Traders to Freepoint Commodities – Source

Dow Jones Newswires

By Ed Ballard and Sarah McFarlane

September 7, 2016

Two senior traders have left China’s state-owned grain trader Cofco Corp. to join Freepoint Commodities LLC, as the U.S. commodities firm expands its agriculture business.

Victor Osle, global head of wheat trading, and head of corn Matt Halsall have left their jobs at Cofco in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a person familiar with the matter. They will join the fledgling agricultural commodities arm of Stamford, CT-based Freepoint, one person said.

Mr. Osle declined to comment. Mr. Halsall couldn’t be reached for comment. A spokesman for Cofco Agri declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Freepoint declined to confirm the move.

“We continue the buildout of our agricultural business … and grow our business both domestically and internationally,” the Freepoint spokeswoman said in an email.

Freepoint, which trades metals and energy, was established in 2011 with the backing of private-equity firm Stone Point Capital. It moved into agricultural trading this year when some big commodities groups were scaling back. Vitol Group has reduced its presence in agriculture this year and Glencore PLC recently sold 40% of its agriculture business.

Some agriculture-focused traders have had a tough time this year. Cargill Inc. and Wilmar International Ltd. reported quarterly losses in their most recent results, after both were caught out by a rally in soybean prices. Louis Dreyfus Co.’s full-year net profit declined by 67%.

The departures also come as Cofco moves to integrate two international trading firms recently purchased to strengthen China’s grip on the supply chain that feeds its increasingly wealthy population.

In 2014, Cofco bought majority stakes in the agricultural arm of Singapore-listed Noble Group Ltd. and in Netherlands-based trading firm Nidera NV. It bought the rest of Noble Agri in December 2015, renaming it Cofco Agri, then agreed to take full control of Nidera last month. Cofco said it would start integrating the two companies’ operations when the Nidera purchase is completed.

Traders at both arms of the company said they expect some job cuts in duplicated trading and back-office functions.