Wanted: Oil traders who
know China, with good heads for liquor
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[June 10, 2016]
By Chen Aizhu and Florence Tan
BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Chinese
independent oil companies are luring traders, marketers and risk
managers away from dominant state behemoths, offering better pay and
perks in a hiring spree triggered by the freeing up of China's crude
Global oil firms and commodity houses have also been raiding state
giants such as Sinochem and CNPC for staff to help handle up to $50
million a day in new crude flowing into China this year, and the
cherry-picking of talent is likely just getting started.
China's independent "teapot" refiners, so called due to their small
size, could be processing by the end of this year as much as a fifth of
the crude imports of the world's No.2 oil consumer. Already, in the
first five months of 2016 - the first full year of a dozen of them being
granted crude import licences - they have captured about 10 percent of
the inbound shipments.
Shandong Dongming Petrochemical Group, China's largest independent
refiner, has built a Singapore-based trading team of 11 to handle this
new business, including trading and shipping managers hired from CNPC
Fuel Oil Company and the CNOOC group.
"A team of this size is far from enough for our scale of 10 million
tonnes a year (200,000 bpd) crude demand," said Zhang Liu Cheng, vice
president of Shandong Dongming.
"We'll need more to cover products, chemicals and market analysis,"
Awarding crude import quotas of up to 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd)
to China's teapots has started a tussle for talent as the refiners - and
the oil majors and trading houses that aim to supply them - dive into an
activity previously restricted to state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
This year, use of the quotas has made up most of a 16 percent or around
1 million bpd rise in China's crude imports, even with several underused
and more awaiting approval.
Those angling for a slice of this market have already hired more than 40
traders and others, mostly from state companies, say colleagues and
acquaintances of people who have moved jobs.
"We have a big but not totally motivated team," said a senior trader
with a state oil company, noting that offers often beat SOE employment,
particularly at smaller firms.
"Certainly we're going to see more talent outflows as the teapots have
just begun hiring," the senior trader said.
Most of the hires are in their mid-thirties, having honed their craft at
Chinese state companies such as Sinochem Corp [SASADA.UL], China
National Offshore Oil Corp and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC),
"Our traders are very popular," said a source from one of the state oil
trading companies. "Most of those who moved from our company are going
to trading houses and majors because the perks are definitely better."
(For a table of traders and others hired away from state companies,
[to top of second column]
A worker walks past oil pipes at a refinery in Wuhan, Hubei province
March 23, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
PEOPLE SKILLS, DRINKING CAPACITY
"We are looking for people who have systematic training, good
relationship skills, and people who understand how China markets work,"
said a Beijing-based executive with a global trading house.
Also, with teapots concentrated mostly in the eastern province of Shandong, an
ability on plant visits to withstand drinking bouts could also be critical as
official at some refineries there are renowned for their large capacities for
"Sometimes I'm scared to visit our refinery in Shandong as they drink too much,"
said a Chinese trader who buys crude on behalf of one of the teapots.
At Shandong Chambroad Petrochemicals Co, however, teetotallers would have the
edge as the company has a strict no-drinking policy that bans alcohol at work
and discourages its consumption even at personal events.
Chambroad, the first Chinese independent to become a Saudi Aramco client, hired
a crude trader at its Singapore unit Sunshine Oil last year from a trading
outfit for China State Shipbuilding Corp [SASACN.UL].
This year Chambroad set up a Shanghai-based derivatives team of 10
professionals, headed by Harry Cui, a former senior trader and head of futures
research for state-owned grain processor and trading firm COFCO Corp.
Cui said his team trades Brent futures to hedge Chambroad's four million tonnes
of annual crude imports as well as its exports of refined fuel.
"It's a small pool when you nail it down to trade experience plus market
knowledge," said the global trading house executive.
For state enterprises, the loss of roughly 10 percent of the trading teams at
some companies is viewed as inevitable. So far the impact has been minimal, but
that could change as the newcomers take more of the market.
Most companies - including BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Glencore - declined to
comment on their staff movements. New hirees also declined to comment due to the
sensitivity of the matter.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu in BEIJING and Florence Tan in SINGAPORE; Editing by
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