November 22, 2019 / 3:22 AM / 20 days ago

SocGen's heads of Asia trade finance depart after bunker fuel losses

SINGAPORE/PARIS (Reuters) - Societe Generale’s regional heads of trade and commodities finance for Asia Pacific have left the Paris-based bank, raising concerns among Singapore-based shipping fuel traders that it may wind back financing services to the sector.

The logo of French bank Societe Generale is pictured at a bank buidling in Paris, France, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

France’s third-biggest listed lender said this year it would shrink or exit some businesses to cut costs at its investment banking unit, and has been hit by losses from trade financing in the Singapore bunker fuel market.

Societe Generale, or SocGen, confirmed on Thursday that Damien de Rosny and Timothy Siow had left the bank, without providing further details.

De Rosny declined to comment when contacted by Reuters, citing a confidentiality agreement. Siow could not be reached for comment.

The bank, however, said it remained active in natural resources financing, one of its core areas of expertise.

“Societe Generale remains committed to trade commodities finance at the global level and in Asia,” the bank said in an email to Reuters.

A SocGen source in France acknowledged that as the firm cut back on commodities trading it was also becoming more selective about counterparties in commodities trade finance.

The bank’s reshuffle had sparked concern it could scale back, or even wind down, its financing services to Singapore’s shipping fuel sector, five trade sources said.

Commodities trading relies heavily on credit lines provided by banks and Societe General has been a significant player in the sector, said the sources, who declined to be identified, citing company policy.

“Banks are certainly a lot more vigilant in the marine fuels sector at this time, and are asking themselves more questions as to the support they should be providing in light of a number of hits different banks have taken,” said a risk management executive at a Singapore oil trader.

Singapore-based marine fuels supplier Inter-Pacific Petroleum Pte (IPP) this year lost its operating licence and was placed under judicial management amid mounting financial stress.

Of IPP’s more than $168.5 million in outstanding liabilities, more than $96 million was in trade financing from SocGen, court documents reviewed by Reuters showed. The bank did not confirm the losses.

In 2017, SocGen also incurred losses after one of Singapore’s largest ship fuel traders, Universal Energy, was stripped of its operating license due to operational malpractice. (reut.rs/2Xy8XnI)

Singapore is the world’s largest bunkering hub, supplying nearly 50 million tonnes of marine fuels in 2018, worth over $20 billion in revenues.

Reporting by Roslan Khasawneh in SINGAPORE and Maya Nikolaeva in PARIS; additional reporting by Jessica Jaganathan and Florence Tan; editing by Richard Pullin

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