(Bloomberg) -- Trafigura Group paid $3 billion to its top traders and executives as the commodity trading giant notched up a fresh record profit in the six months to March.
The payout — Trafigura’s highest ever — is the latest evidence of how a small group of commodity traders have shared an unprecedented bounty on the back of the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Trafigura reported net profit of $5.5 billion in the six months to March, up 108% from the same period a year earlier and the third successive half year in which it has reported record earnings. The results came even as the company, one of the world’s largest commodity traders, was hit by a massive alleged nickel fraud.
The dividend is shared among employees who own Trafigura — the latest count stands at about 1,200, according to a company spokesperson, meaning they would receive an average of about $2.5 million each.
Trafigura is not alone in reaping a bonanza from the energy crisis. Rival Vitol Group made record profits of almost $15 billion last year, Bloomberg has reported, while the energy trading divisions of oil majors BP Plc and Shell Plc have also seen spectacular gains.
Still, Trafigura warned that the record earnings were unlikely to be sustained in the remainder of the year as the energy crisis that gripped Europe last year begins to ease.
“We do not expect the extraordinary conditions that have characterized global commodity markets in 2022 and the first half of 2023 to continue in the remainder of this year,” said Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Weir. “The impact of tighter monetary policy on the global economy, a less stressed environment for commodity supply chains and seasonal factors that affect demand for commodities such as gas, are all helping to moderate volatile conditions and are likely to see the pace of our growth slow compared to the previous 12 months.”
Trafigura’s record profits came with only a modest increase to its tax bill: the company reported income tax costs of $627 million for the period, representing an effective tax rate of just over 10%. Although it owns assets ranging from zinc smelters in Belgium and the Netherlands to fuel stations in Africa, much of Trafigura’s profit is made by traders sitting in low-tax hubs such as Switzerland and Singapore.
Trafigura took a $590 million charge in relation to the alleged nickel fraud — up slightly from the $577 million loss it announced in February — meaning that the overwhelming majority of the company’s profit was delivered by its energy division. The metals and minerals segment represented just 10% of Trafigura’s overall operating profit before depreciation and amortization for the period, which the company described as “robust performance overall in challenging market conditions.”
(Updates with latest figure for Trafigura shareholders in fourth paragraph.)
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