A Singapore-based company has taken over as the world’s biggest sugar trader and is influencing the volatile commodity market with its unusual tactics.
The company, Wilmar International Ltd is scooping up sugar across the globe, only to hold the stocks seemingly at the right moment and to sell it when prices soar on the global market.
Wall Street Journal called the company a new power in the business, adding that it is literally filling 3000 swimming pools worth of storage facilities for the sugar it is frantically buying on the market.
The tactic has caused industry players to turn their heads and to look at how Wilmar is turning a risky business into a profitable one.
The Journal said this tactic has created confusion in one of the world’s most volatile commodity markets.
The agribusiness has shareholders such as the family of Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok and Chicago-based Archer Daniels Midland Co and was founded 26 years ago.
It is one of the world’s largest palm-oil producers but a relative newcomer in the sugar business.
The company has bought more than 6 million tons of sugar in this manner since 2015, enough to fill roughly 3,000 Olympic-size swimming pools at a cost of some $2.3 billion.
Last week, Wilmar agreed to buy $512 million in raw sugar at the expiration of a popular futures contract on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange.
The tactic consists of buying sugar when prices are at multiyear lows, as in 2015, mopping up that year’s global oversupply.
In the rally that followed, sugar prices more than doubled and Wilmar sold its sugar it owned to other traders when the prices peaked.
The company’s size and scale, however, are sowing concerns among some traders that it could control a large amount of the world’s tradable sugar and influence prices, said WSJ.
Wilmar has found it economical to purchase sugar in bulk using futures contracts because the exchange’s rules require sellers to deliver the sugar on board buyers’ ships, which facilitates international trading.
In 2016, Wilmar’s sugar division posted a 33% year-over-year increase in revenue to $5.9 billion, “an outstanding set of results,” according to the company, partly because of higher sugar prices.
It earned $125 million from the sugar business last year, for a profit margin of 2.1%.
Wilmar entered the sugar market through a $1.5 billion takeover of Australia’s largest sugar producer.