State-Backed Chinese Fund Buys 5% Stake in Swiss-Based Trader Mercuria

A subsidiary of China’s state-backed investment fund CNIC Corp bought a 5% stake in Swiss-based global energy trader Mercuria. China has hired dozens of traders from global firms for its state commodities companies in a bid to expand into sectors ranging from oil to metals and grains but there have been few direct purchases into international trading houses. Beijing has been looking to hedge its global interests against possible future Western decoupling since relations with Washington have deteriorated. China’s top oil producer CNOOC was looking to offload assets from Britain, Canada and the United States in 2022.

The CNIC subsidiary bought the stake of just under 5% in Mercuria last year. The purchase has not been made public at the time. While the value of the transaction is unknown, per Mercuria’s 2021 equity value of about $4.4 billion, a 5% stake is equal to around $220 million.

The purchase came in the fourth quarter last year after China’s refining and petrochemical company ChemChina sold back a 12% stake it had held in Mercuria for six years.

CNIC was set up a decade ago, and the unit that bought into Mercuria is focused on China’s energy transition and provides a foothold for Mercuria in the country as the Geneva-based trader seeks to expand its presence in clean energy sources.

Mercuria pledged in 2020 that 50% of its new investments would go into renewable energy for the next five years and it teamed up with U.S. private equity firms to set up a $1.5 billion fund for clean energy such as solar power.

Founded in 2004, Mercuria is among the top five global oil traders, moving around two million barrels per day of crude oil and refined products.

The majority of the company’s traded volumes is now non-oil. It is a major trader of power, natural gas, and emissions and reported a record annual net profit in 2021 of $1.3 billion and revenues of $130 billion.

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