NEW YORK, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Commodities trading house Gunvor has hired at least seven Noble Group Ltd biofuels traders, including John Skrinar as the North American head of renewables, four sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Noble, once Asia’s biggest commodities trader, has been winding down oil trading operations amid heavy losses and high debt. It sold its U.S.-focused oil business to Vitol SA and many key traders in London and Singapore are also leaving to join competitors.
The U.S. corn ethanol industry has been grappling with overcapacity, limiting profitability in the biofuels sector. Noble in December agreed to sell an ethanol plant in South Bend, Indiana, to Mercuria Investments for about $18.5 million.
Skrinar was previously managing director of global renewable fuels at Noble, according to his LinkedIn profile.
A majority of the Noble biofuels traders joined Skrinar at Gunvor earlier this year, the sources said.
Gunvor began building its U.S trading operations 2016, expanding outside its core markets in Europe, Asia and Africa. The company has hired several traders to launch a crude oil desk in Houston, Texas, and beefed up its Canadian trading desk.
Separately, Eric Fobes, also an ex-Noble trader, joined Trafigura as head of ethanol, according to two sources and his LinkedIn profile.
Joel Williams, who was senior vice president of ethanol proprietary trading at Noble, joined Vitol, according to three sources.
Gunvor, Vitol and Trafigura did not respond to a request for comment. Williams did not respond to requests for comment and Skrinar did not immediately comment when reached by Reuters.
The sources declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. (Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York and Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)