Noble shuts its City coal trade desk

ASIA-focused commodities trader Noble has closed its London coal trading desk while hiring heavily in the US and Asia, in the latest blow to the City’s status as a global financial hub.

The desk used to trade both physical coal and coal swaps in London as part of Noble’s 120 staff employed in two UK offices.

Many of Noble’s physical coal and coal swaps traders have now left the firm as a result, it emerged yesterday.

Singapore-listed Noble is now expanding into Asia as it seeks to capitalise on China’s soaring demand for commodities, including coal.

Its executive vice president for coal and carbon, Neil Dhar, has estimated China will need about 200m tonnes of coal imports per year by 2015.

“Noble is primarily an Asia-based business for coal so it makes sense to grow the business there, where all the future demand growth and a lot of new production is going to come from,” one of its former traders said.

Noble has also hired seven new petrol traders in the US for its trading desks in Houston and Stamford in more signs that other countries are benefiting while it withdraws from London.

It has continued buying into the pipelines for commodity assets, paying $950m (£600m) for two sugar mills in Brazil and raising its stake in subsidiary Australian iron ore producer Territory in June.

A competitor to Glencore, Noble was founded in 1980 and employs 11,000 globally across mining, processing, storage, port terminals and trading operations.

It is now Asia’s biggest diversified commodities trader, and made $343m net profit in the first half of the year, up 70 per cent from a year earlier, on revenues of $39.7bn.