(Bloomberg) — With the world’s largest oil traders scaling back Russian crude exports, the market is trying to figure out who is going to fill the void.
The answers include a medium-sized Geneva-based trader with close ties to Moscow, several smaller firms that are getting more active, and some completely new names including one called Bellatrix — the name of a bad wizard from the world of Harry Potter.
The ability of Russia to find middlemen, ships and buyers for its crude is pivotal for both the global oil market and Moscow. The fewer barrels the country exports, the greater the pressure there will be on supply, but also on the nation’s revenues.
The wide spread of traders shows how — for now — Russia is overcoming the retreat of Trafigura Group and Glencore Plc, two of the world’s biggest commodity merchants. Vitol Group, the world’s top oil trader, has also said it won’t touch new Russian business and that its activities will decline from this quarter.
Litasco SA, a unit of Moscow-based producer Lukoil PJSC, has become the largest handler of Russia’s flagship Urals grade, according to port-agent reports compiled by Bloomberg. It hired tankers to haul at least 14 million barrels in April, and 8.6 million already this month — far exceeding anyone else’s share.
There are no legal impediments on transporting Russian oil, although the US and UK have announced phased-in bans, and Europe is still expected do so in the coming weeks.
Geneva-based Litasco declined to comment on trading but said the company, and its subsidiaries and affiliates, are following all laws…
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