Citi commodity business hits record in first quarter on volatile markets

LONDON (Reuters) - Citigroup's C.N commodity business soared to record revenues in the first quarter, mainly due to sharp swings in prices such as oil during the COVID-19 pandemic, an executive said.

FILE PHOTO: Citibank offices in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, November 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Trading activity has levelled off recently, but there was still strong interest in structured deals, such as financing of base metals, Jose Cogolludo, global head of commodities, told a webinar.

“We’ve seen a record level of client activity in the first quarter and that extended to April,” Cogolludo said, without providing figures.

A spokeswoman confirmed he was referring to record commodity revenues in the first three months of the year.

In April, Citigroup reported a 46% fall in quarterly profit, but that was partly cushioned by a surge in trading fees, with trading revenues in the fixed income division, which includes commodities, up 39%.

Banks typically do not break out commodities revenues when reporting results.

“That (increase) was predominantly driven by flow business on the investment side of the business, tactical accounts and asset managers that were of course responding to this unprecedented crisis and very unpredictable market outlook.”

There was also a significant increase in corporate clients adding protective hedges, he added.

Among commodities, oil prices have been the most volatile with WTI crude futures tumbling below $0 for the first time in history, sliding on April 20 to minus $37.63.

Cogolludo said trading levels had retreated in recent months, but other types of activity were still healthy.

“The flow business that was predominant in the first half of the year has normalised to more normal levels. But we’ve certainly seen an elevated interest in more structured and strategic transactions, for example, financing-related solutions specifically in industrial metals spaces,” he said.

“We would expect in the second half of the year and well into next year that this would continue.”

Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Alexandra Hudson