Five European benzene brokers: Who needs them?

04 July 2005 16:49  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (CNI)--Industry players on the sidelines of the European Petrochemicals Luncheon (EPL) meeting on 30 June-1 July in Rome were mulling whether the burgeoning number of benzene brokers in the European industry is a good thing or not.


Concerns came to a head when aromatics producers, consumers and traders expressed their confusion at the plethora of benzene brokers.


“We don’t need more brokers than traders,” said one major producer.


European benzene broking was for many years the preserve of two Rotterdam-based aromatics brokers, Petrochemical Brokerage (PCB) and Starsupply Petroleum Europe. But the field has seen three newcomers in the last two years.


First came Swiss-based New Stone, an established methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) broker expanding into benzene as an offshoot of its gasoline components business.


Into the same space came Zug, Switzerland-based Alpax Petroleum, focused on benzene broking and founded in 2004 by Patrick Cox, a former trader at Swiss-based trading company Trammochem.


The most recent arrival was Cyprus-registered R and PB Ltd, a two-man team set up by former BP trading manager David Phillips and Yigal Roter, previously of Talichem in Brussels and Tel Aviv.


“There are too many brokers,” said one broker.  “If you count Chemconnect there are six. The newer ones don’t have the range of contacts or the full range of aromatics.”


“I expect to see more Asian companies setting up in Europe to source products for export to Asia. This will increase market liquidity in some of the aromatics which are now dead, like paraxylene (PX),” he added. "But it won’t happen for another couple of years."


“However, when there are too many brokers, markets normally sort themselves out – it’s like the Serengeti,” the broker said.


There is certainly impatience amongst buyers and sellers of benzene at the number of calls they receive every day from brokers.


“A broker needs to bring added value,” said one major benzene producer. “It isn’t enough to just talk numbers. I want someone who can bring me an informed opinion on market direction.”


At the same time as this increase in brokers, the future of benzene traders is increasingly precarious, according to market players.

By: Barbara Ortner
+44 20 8652 3214

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