Trafigura’s copper uber-bull departs as metals drama drags on

Trafigura’s former co-head of metals Kostas Bintas. (Image from Bintas’ LinkedIn.)

Kostas Bintas, the former co-head of metals at commodity trading giant Trafigura Group, is leaving the company after being demoted in a September reshuffle that capped a turbulent year for the division.

Bintas, who built Trafigura’s copper-trading book into the world’s largest and is a longstanding and vocal bull on metals markets, is leaving the company by mutual consent, according to a person familiar with the matter. He will be on gardening leave with immediate effect, the person said.

His departure comes as Trafigura has been wrestling with the future of its metals unit, amid tensions within the top ranks over how much it should continue to invest in a business that has underperformed in the past two years.

The metals unit has come under growing pressure as profits shrunk and the company was hit by a massive alleged nickel fraud. By contrast, the company’s energy trading divisions have been raking in record profits, shifting the balance of power between the top executives who own most of the company.

The tension came to a head in September, when the company announced a shakeup of its senior leadership into a new, slimmed-down management committee dominated by executives with an energy trading background.

Bintas was among the handful of executives removed from the company’s top management team as a result of the changes, after his former co-head Gonzalo De Olazaval was named the sole head of the metals business, with Bintas retaining responsibility for copper and aluminum but reporting to him.

Bintas, who declined to comment, joined Trafigura in 2009 and rose to become head of copper and then co-head of its metals division. During that time, the company’s copper book grew rapidly to eclipse rival Glencore Plc and become the world’s biggest trader of the conducting metal.

He is known in the market for bold trades and bullish calls on copper, and became one of Trafigura’s most prominent faces with regular appearances at industry conferences. In 2021, he forecast copper would rise to $15,000 a ton over the coming decade — more than 80% higher than today’s prices.

The news of Bintas’s departure coincides with one of the biggest annual events in the metals calendar, as traders, miners and financiers descend on Shanghai for Asia Copper Week.

For Trafigura, the move adds to the drama at the company’s metals division, as the commodity trading giant prepares to report its annual results for the year ended September in the coming weeks.

The alleged nickel fraud has cost the company almost $600 million, and its head of nickel and cobalt trading left in the wake of its discovery. Trafigura has said it doesn’t believe any of its employees was complicit in the alleged fraud.

The group has also been forced to help seek new funding for one of its flagship investments — a copper-cobalt project in the Democratic Republic of Congo — after it ran into a cash crunch. The project has since been put up for sale by its owner, Bloomberg reported last month.

(By Archie Hunter and Jack Farchy)


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