(Bloomberg) -- Gunvor Group, one of the biggest independent oil traders, is snapping up benchmark-defining cargoes of crude oil that other companies are offloading, a possible indication of the firm being bullish.

The Geneva-based company has kept 17 out of 18 North Sea crude cargoes that have been put into so-called forward chains so far this month. The total volume controlled by one single company is the highest since at least December 2019 when Bloomberg started compiling data.  Each cargo is 700,000 barrels. 

Chains are a mechanism that allows companies to offload oil that they own but don’t want to take delivery of in a given period of time, they ultimately become Dated Brent cargoes. It is rare to see so many cargoes being put into chains at this time of a month and relatively few buyers. It suggests others are more bearish about the market’s short-term prospects.

When a market is in a backwardation — where the price for prompt delivery is higher than that for future dates — a company that owns a cargo will often avoid chains, instead selling it in the spot market to fetch a better price. But the market, especially the North Sea paper market, has moved into a contango, the opposite structure, over the past month. 

The physical North Sea and Mediterranean market is now oversupplied, even after the busier summer demand season kicked off. Brent contracts for difference, or CFDs, have been in contango for a month, prompting more sellers to skip spot sales and encouraging chaining. 

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But Gunvor, in Swedish billionaire Torbjorn Tornqvist has the biggest stake, appears to hold a different view. The company has become one of the biggest participants in the North Sea market since the US grade WTI Midland was added to the global benchmark a year ago. 

Gunvor has also been active in North Sea derivatives market. 

On May 31, when the July Brent futures contact expired, the company was the buyer of 25 out of 26 trades of July-August spread trades, according to traders monitoring a pricing window run by S&P Global Commodity Insights, better known as Platts. 

A Gunvor spokesperson declined to comment.

--With assistance from Archie Hunter.

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