Giacomo and Guglielmo Benvegnù

Directors

What is your company’s core activity? What are your main markets (countries/areas)?

Sogeco international is, since 1987, active in leasing and trading of storage, living and temperature controlled containers.
Main markets are Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain, India, UAE and China where all our containers are manufactured.

From your perspective, how does your industry perform and what is the market outlook?
The industry is growing especially in Southern Europe where containerization is gradually replacing traditional storage solutions.

What are the advantages of having your headquarters in / operating from Lugano, Switzerland?
Lugano combines a fair corporate taxation and an efficient bank system with proximity to Italy, especially Milan, strong market and where our branch office is headquartered.

Give a brief description of why you joined LCTA.
We are aiming to expand our business in Switzerland and in all European countries. In particular, the southern cantons of Switzerland can benefit from being very close to our Milan depot where containers are trucked from. We also believe that the recent abolition of swiss import duties on industrial products like containers and, in general, the absence of “middle men” between us and final users will make our products extremely competitive.

   

Il Comitato esecutivo della LCTA ha nominato Monica Zurfluh quale nuovo Segretario generale al posto di Marco Passalia, che ha rassegnato le dimissioni per motivi professionali. La nomina è stata ufficializzata nel corso dell’Assemblea generale 2023 e Monica Zurfluh ci ha rilasciato una breve intervista in questa nuova veste.

Monica Zurfluh, quale percorso l’ha portata alla sua attuale posizione in LCTA?

Desidero innanzitutto ringraziare la Lugano Commodity Trading Association (LCTA) e la Camera di commercio e dell’industria del Cantone Ticino (Cc-Ti) per l’opportunità che mi è stata data. Da dicembre 2021 sono infatti attiva quale responsabile del servizio Commercio internazionale della Cc-Ti e la nomina a Segretario Generale di LCTA è parte integrante delle mie attività.

Ho iniziato la mia carriera lavorativa nel luglio 1994 come assistente commerciale presso una nota fiduciaria di Lugano. A marzo 1998 mi sono candidata per un posto di assistente del responsabile della sede di Lugano dell’organizzazione svizzera di promozione delle esportazioni. L’idea era di restarci un paio d’anni… ne sono trascorsi oltre venti. Le tappe sono state: specialista export, consulente per l’internazionalizzazione e, infine, responsabile di sede. A metà del 2021, la svolta: la Cc-Ti voleva rilanciare l’allora Servizio export ed io avevo bisogno di nuovi stimoli. Da dicembre dello stesso anno sono attiva quale responsabile della divisione Commercio internazionale.

In passato ho avuto modo di collaborare in più occasioni con LCTA, e in particolare con il mio predecessore, Marco Passalia, nell’ambito delle missioni all’estero. Da quando sono in Cc-Ti, le mie attività a supporto degli associati sono state segnate da numerose sanzioni adottate a seguito della guerra in Ucraina così come da nuove regolamentazioni sui prodotti siderurgici o in materia di sostenibilità ambientale. Tutto ciò mi ha portato in contatto con diverse aziende operanti nel trading di materie prime. Quando Marco Passalia ha annunciato la necessità di dimettersi, ho deciso di accettare questa nuova sfida che mi vede impegnata a tempo parziale. Le sinergie con la mia occupazione principale sono molte: da oltre un ventennio informo e consiglio le aziende della Svizzera italiana in merito alle operazioni con l’estero, con particolare riferimento alle formalità amministrative e doganali. Sono inoltre incaricata di sviluppare da un lato la rete di contatti e di partner a livello cantonale, svizzero e internazionale e dall’altro le attività eventistiche. In questo senso, i compiti in LCTA si allineano perfettamente con quelli della mia attività principale.

In poche parole, quali sono le priorità del suo mandato?

La LCTA è nata nel 2010, tra gli altri, per favorire il dialogo tra le aziende del settore e tra queste e gli attori a supporto delle loro attività, come le banche, le assicurazioni e le società di shipping e di spedizione, per promuovere lo sviluppo e la crescita dei loro collaboratori rafforzando il loro know-how negli ambiti specifici del trading e per far conoscere alle autorità e all’opinione pubblica l’importanza effettiva del ramo. Il mio compito è portare avanti questi obiettivi, anche in considerazione di un contesto geopolitico in cambiamento, di un quadro normativo sempre più complesso e dove i fattori ambientali, sociali e di governance (ESG) sono sempre più determinanti. Le mie priorità sono, concretamente: conoscere gli associati e i loro bisogni effettivi, consolidare l’offerta formativa, ricreare il senso di comunità riproponendo appuntamenti, in primis l’evento faro della LCTA, ovvero la Global Commodity Conference, da ultimo ma non meno importante, rafforzare la collaborazione con l’associazione mantello SUISSENÉGOCE e la sorella Zug Commodity Association (ZCA) e rinnovare le sinergie con la Città di Lugano e le varie autorità.

Interview* with Marco Galimberti, CEO of DP Trade SA, Lugano
* original interview in Italian (below), English translation on deepl.com

Short Company Portrait
DP Trade Ltd. is a Lugano-based company that is active in the international steel trade. It is a small to medium-sized company with subsidiaries in Europe, China, North Africa and South America. DP Trade intermediates steel flows between exporting and importing countries. Apart from its commercial activities, DP Trade Ltd is a financial services provider because it “pays first and receives later”, as director Marco Galimberti says. In addition to this, the company also acts as an absorber of various commercial risks in the industry for its clients.

Mr Galimberti, what weight does have the steel production sector on the worldwide commodity market?

The world produces two billion tonnes of steel annually. The metal is worth one thousand dollars a tonne, which corresponds to a total value of two trillion dollars. The world’s GDP is 85 trillion dollars, and steel contributes about two percent. That is, to a considerable extent.

How do you judge the situation of your commodity sector as a whole?

My sector is that of intermediaries, so I look at everything from that point of view. Actually, we cannot directly define steel as a commodity, but let’s simplify it and say that currently the steel market is in a dislocation, in a certain destabilisation. Before, things were going quite well.

Is this destabilisation due to the pandemic?

In 2020, with the Covid outbreak, there was a fall in prices and the producers had heavy losses. So they massively reduced production to minimise these losses and to match demand. After the lockdown, demand recovered faster than production, so we had a very strong year with steel prices reaching unprecedented levels.

Were there major logistical problems or production difficulties?

After the lockdown, first there were production problems and then, specifically in the steel sector, logistical difficulties appeared. Also after the lockdown of spring 2020, in September-October of the same year, there was a shortage of steel, and then there was a heavy reliance on Chinese steel, because the production was not up to the level of what was being consumed, so the stocks dried up.

And as a result, prices rose sharply.

First the price went up and up, then at one point it even made it possible to export the Chinese product, which is subject to duties of 20 or 25 per cent of its value in Europe. Even that price could be paid because of the lack of steel.

And logistics suffered or still do suffer from many obstacles?

At that point, with this strong demand and also with Covid 19, Chinese ports were becoming increasingly congested. Ships that used to take five days to load, now take a month and a half because everything is going so much slower. Then, when these ships arrive in European ports, the material starts to accumulate so much that the European ports become so saturated that they can no longer unload quickly. They cause a wait of a month or even a month and a half.

Are there other negative elements?

A combination of elements, including the multitude of port workers sickened by Covid, effect that the logistics chain first suffers at the origin, and then the destination ports suffer.

By the way, what is the ranking of producers of steel?

China, India, the US, the EU and then Japan. So of these two billion tonnes per year that are produced in the world, a whole billion come from China alone.

How are prices developing at the moment?

A few months ago, prices went down a bit. But now, with the Russian armed intervention in Ukraine and between the cancellation and the production of Ukrainian iron, and also because of the sanctions that prevent payment to Russian suppliers, we can say that there is a dislocation in the chain at the moment. It is really difficult to say what the market price is.

To what extent is the war in Ukraine affecting or even limiting the commodity and steel business?

Ukraine and Russia are strong exporters of steel and raw materials. They are also countries rich in iron ore as well as coal, both of which are used for steel production. Ukraine alone already produces 22 million tonnes of this worldwide. And now, with Ukraine not producing and not exporting and Russia producing but cannot sell or cannot be paid, a deficit is created; it only takes a small surplus or a small supply deficit to cause a significant change in prices.

And what are the consequences for the market?

So, right now, there is a complete destabilisation of prices in the market at international level.

It means, prices fluctuate so much.

The world outside China consumes, like China itself, a billion tonnes. Of this one billion consumed outside China, let’s say nine hundred is consumed outside Russia and Ukraine. These two countries usually export forty million tons of steel, so five percent of the world’s supply is gone. It is a very strong quantity, and for this reason the price dynamic is ascending and unpredictable. A certain price is valid for five minutes, but can quickly change considerably.

But in general, have prices been rising since the beginning of the war in Ukraine?

Yes, there is a strong increase. But to what extent exactly, we don’t know, since the conflict has just started. The price moves over time, so it is not instantaneous. Maybe in a month’s time it will be easier to say to which point the prices have come. Obviously higher prices lead to less demand. What is most noticeable at the moment is the lack of material.

Will we have to wait until the war is over and then see the consequences?

The consequences? Maybe we return to the previous status quo, but I consider that very difficult. I see a new iron curtain being erected where Russia is on one side, and at least the western world on the other.

So prices will remain quite high?

With less supply it would. And if there is no economic and political stability, prices go up and down repeatedly. But I have to point out that not only conflicts engrave a lot, like the current one that has so much impact, but is rare.

What specific factor is more frequent than an armed conflict with regard to prices?

Prices rise and fall regularly as a result of small excesses of supply and small deficits of supply or demand; it depends on the point of view. Sometimes small events are enough to cause even violent price movements, and this is a phenomenon that occurs with some regularity.

To what extent is Lugano affected as an important location for commodities business?

Our city has become a special place for steel trading due to the fact that the large Duferco company settled here in the early 1990s. Many of the Russians, who today are cut off from international business because of sanctions, have their trading company or at least a branch here. So Lugano feels the consequences of this war very strongly.

Let’s turn to the subject of sustainability. To what extent does it manifest itself in the steel business?

In our business it does not directly affect us.

Why is sustainability not an issue?

There is a tendency among steel producers, in the context of their green agendas, to reduce CO2 emissions, i.e. to transform their production processes to emit much less CO2. But these are huge investments that will only happen over time. Today, there are no two separate markets in the sense of products that are more sustainable and those that are not.

Does this mean that your industry needs more time to achieve a certain sustainability of its products?

Of the steel that companies produce all over the world, one third is produced from scrap, i.e. melted steel. The other two-thirds are produced by full cycle, i.e. from iron ore from crushed rock, which is reduced to be purified. In the first case, production from scrap is much less impactful in terms of CO2 emissions. It emits around 0.5 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of steel produced, while the blast furnace process emits two tonnes of CO2 per tonne of steel produced.

The mode of production has a big impact.

Let’s say that the production of steel, especially from raw materials through the blast furnace, is very much an emitter. There is a tendency to reduce, which means to purify, the iron ore using hydrogen or gas. And then there is a tendency to go beyond the use of coal in the blast furnace to purify the iron ore in order to get a greener steel.

So consciousness has yet to grow in the sector.

In Europe there are taxes on CO2 emissions. This means that factories have an interest in reducing emissions. There is an awareness in the industry that it costs money to emit, but on the demand side it has not yet manifested itself. We need more people to say to themselves: I’m buying a low-CO2 refrigerator, so I’m willing to pay more. It is the consumers who are not very aware of this.

How can we avoid total exploitation of the land, of the natural deposits of raw materials?

Iron ore comes mainly from Australia and Brazil, and is produced by giant companies listed on the stock exchange. Exploitation? It depends on the demand, for example the strong request for cars influences the need for iron. It all depends on the fact of supply and demand. An interesting aspect is that if the quantity of steel is too great, the price goes down, at which point production is reduced.

In your opinion, what are the future challenges in the steel and commodity sector?

One challenge is to reduce emissions during excavation and production, of course. But these are huge investments that require multi-year programmes and enormous mountains of money. Another major challenge in trade is protectionism.

Protectionism in what sense?

It means that if, for example, the United States enforces Section 232 and says that a 25% import duty would apply, there would be fewer imports and therefore less trade. Duties are really an obstacle. And in the end they force consumers to pay higher prices.

How will the steel sector evolve within 20 years?

I think that in the context of production the concentration processes will continue. We will have more and more giants. The Chinese have concentrated their industry, and I think the concentration processes will continue rapidly. The movement in the direction of lower CO2 intensity is also certain, but, as I said, it will take time.

So what is your prediction?

All in all, it is difficult to make reliable predictions, not least because of such conflicts as the war in Ukraine. These conflicts profoundly alter geopolitical balances; in the absence of Russian gas and coal, one thinks back to coal and nuclear power that already seemed to have been put aside.

“Il mercato dell’acciaio è destabilizzato”

Intervista a Marco Galimberti, CEO della DP Trade SA, Lugano

Mini-ritratto aziendale

La DP Trade SA è una company attiva nel commercio internazionale di acciaio. Si tratta di un’azienda medio-piccola che ha delle filiali in Europa, Cina, Nordafrica e Sudamerica. La DP Trade intermedia flussi di acciaio tra paesi che esportano e quelli che importano. Salvo l’attività commerciale, la DP Trade SA un fornitore di servizi finanziari perché “paga prima e incassa dopo”, come dice il direttore Marco Galimberti. Oltre a ciò l’azienda funge per i suoi clienti anche da assorbitore di diversi rischi commerciali nel settore.

Signor Galimberti, in quale misura il settore della produzione di acciaio incide sul mercato mondiale delle materie prime?

Al mondo si producono annualmente due milliardi di tonnellate di acciaio. Il metallo vale mille dollari la tonnelata, ciò che corrisponde a un valore complessivo di due trilioni di dollari. Il GDP del mondo ammonta a 85 trilioni di dollari, e l’acciaio contribuisce all’incirca a due per cento. Quindi in una misura considerevole.

Come valuta la situazione del suo settore di commodity in generale?

Il mio settore è quello degli intermediari, quindi considero tutto da questo punto di vista. In realtà, l’acciaio non possiamo definirlo direttamente come una commodity, ma semplifichiamo il tutto e diciamo che attualmente il mercato dell’acciaio si trova in una dislocation, in una certa destabilizzazione. Prima le cose andavano abbastanza bene.

Una destabilizzazione a causa della pandemia?

Nel 2020, con l’esplosione di Covid, vi è stata una caduta dei prezzi e i produttori avevano delle forti perdite. Quindi hanno ridotto massicciamente la produzione per minimizzare queste perdite e per allinearsi alla domanda. Dopo il lockdown, la domanda ha ripreso più rapidamente di quanto la produzione è riuscita a salire, perciò vi è stato un anno di grande slancio con prezzi di acciaio che hanno raggiunto dei valori che non avevano dei precedenti.

Vi erano grandi problemi logistici o problemi di produzione?

Dopo il lockdown, prima vi erano i problemi di produzione e dopo, specificamente nel settore dell’acciaio, sono apparse le difficoltà logistiche. Sempre dopo il confinamento della primavera 2020, in settembre-ottobre, l’acciaio venne a mancare, e allora vi fu un forte ricorso all’acciao cinese, perché, appunto, la produzione non era all’altezza di quanto veniva consumato quindi le scorte si asciugarono.

E di conseguenza i prezzi sono aumentati bruscamente.

Prima il prezzo saliva e saliva, poi a un certo punto rese adirittura possibile l’export del prodotto cinese che è sopposto ai dazi di 20 o 25 percento del suo valore in Europa. Poteva essere pagato persino quel prezzo a causa della mancanza di acciaio.

E la logistica soffriva o soffre ancora di molti ostacoli?

A quel punto, con questa forte domanda e anche con il Covid 19, si congestionavano sempre di più i porti cinesi. Le navi che prima impiegavano cinque giorni a caricare impiegano adesso un mese e mezzo perché tutto va molto più lentamente. Poi, quando queste navi arrivano nei porti europei il materiale incomincia ad accumularsi tanto che i porti europei diventano talmente saturi che non riescono più a scaricare velocemente e causano un’attesa di un mese, o addirittura di un mese e mezzo.

Ci sono altri elementi negativi?

Una somma di elementi, tra questi anche la moltitudine di lavoratori dei porti ammalati da Covid, fa sì che la catena logistica prima soffre all’origine, e poi soffrono i porti di destinazione.

Riguardo all’origine dell’acciaio, qual è il ranking dei produttori?

Cina, India, Stati Uniti, l’UE e poi Giappone. Quindi di queste due milliardi di tonnellate all’anno che vengono prodotte nel mondo, viene un intero milliardo solo dalla Cina.

Attualmente, come si stanno sviluppando i prezzi?

Qualche mese fa, i prezzi si sono un po’ abbassati. Ma adesso, con l’intervento armato russo in Ucraina e tra la cancellazione e la produzione di ferro d’Ucraina, e inoltre a causa delle sanzioni che impediscono di pagare i fornitori russi, possiamo dire che in questo momento vi è una dislocation nella catena. È proprio difficile dire quale sia il prezzo vincolante di mercato

La guerra in Ucraina, in quale misura influenza o persino limita il business dell’acciaio, delle materie prime?

L’Ucraina e la Russia sono forti esportatrici di acciaio e di materie prime. Sono Paesi anche ricchi di minerale di ferro nonché di carbone, entrambi vengono usati per la produzione di acciaio. L’Ucraina da sola produce già 22 millioni tonnellate di queste due milliardi annuali che vengono prodotte in tutto il mondo. Ed ora, avendo l’Ucraina che non produce e non esporta e la Russia che produce ma non può vendere o non può essere pagata si crea un deficit; bastano piccoli surplus o piccoli deficit di offerta per causare una variazione significativa del lato delle offerte, e questo in maniera ripetitiva dei prezzi

E quali sono le conseguenze per il mercato?

Quindi, in questo momento, vi è una destabilizzazione completa dei prezzi sul mercato a livello internazionale.

Vuol dire, i prezzi oscillano tanto.

Il mondo al di fuori della Cina consuma, come la Cina stessa, un milliardo di tonnellate. Di questo milliardo consumato fuori Cina, diciamo sono novecento quelli consumati fuori Russia e Ucraina. Questi due Paesi di solito esportano quaranta milioni tonnellate di acciaio, quindi un cinque per cento dell’offerta mondiale è scomparso. È un quantitativo molto forte, e per questa ragione la dinamica dei prezzi è ascendente ed imprevedibile. Un certo prezzo è valido per cinque minuti, ma può subito cambiare notevolmente.

Ma in generale, i prezzi aumentano sin dall’inizio della guerra in Ucraina?

Sì, vi è un forte aumento. Ma in quale misura estattamente, non lo sappiamo, dato che il conflitto è appena iniziato. Il prezzo si muove nel tempo, quindi non è instantaneo. Magari tra un mese sarà piu’ facile dire dove sono arrivati i prezzi Ovviamente i prezzi più alti determinano una minore domanda. Quello che al momento si percepisce più di tutto, è la mancanza del materiale.

Dovremo aspettare finché finisca la guerra e poi vedremo le conseguenze?

Le conseguenze? Magari ritorniamo allo status quo precedente, ma questo non lo considero talmente difficile. Vedo una nuova cortina di ferro eretta là ove la Russia sta da un lato, e almeno il mondo occidentale dall’altro.

Quindi i prezzi rimarranno piuttosto alti?

Con un’offerta più scarsa sarebbe così. E se la stabilità economica e politica non vi è, i prezzi salgono e scendono ripetutamente. Ma devo sottolineare che non solo incidono molto i conflitti come quello attuale che è un evento molto impattante, ma raro.

Che cosa è più frequente?

I prezzi salgono e scendono regolarmente in funzione di piccoli eccessi di offerta e piccoli deficit di offerta o di domanda, dipende dal punto di vista. Talvolta bastano piccoli avvenimenti per determinare movimenti di prezzo anche violenti, e questo è un fenomeno che si manifesta con una certa regolarità.

In quale misura è colpita Lugano come location importante del business con le materie prime?

La nostra città, per il fatto che la grande ditta Duferco si è stabilita qua all’inizio degli anni novanta, è diventata un luogo speciale per il trading con l’acciaio. Tanti dei russi, che oggi sono tagliati fuori dal business internazionale, hanno qua da noi la loro trading company o almeno una filiale. Quindi Lugano sente molto fortemente le conseguenze di questa guerra.

Incidono tanto anche qua da noi le sanzioni internazionali contro la Russia?

Non permettono di acquistare dalla Russia la merce e di pagarla, e quindi i prezzi aumentano massicciamente. Il lavoro a Lugano viene meno.

Passiamo al tema della sostenibilità. In quale misura si manifesta nel business dell’acciaio?

Nel nostro business non incide direttamente.

Come mai la sostenibilità non incide?

Vi è una tendenza tra i produttori di acciaio, nel contesto delle loro agende verdi, a ridurre le emissioni di CO2, quindi a trasformare i processi produttivi per emettere molto meno CO2. Si tratta però di investimenti giganteschi che avverranno solo con il tempo. Oggi non ci sono due mercati separati nel senso di prodotti più sostenibili e quelli che non lo sono.

Vuol dire che il suo settore ha bisogno di più tempo per raggiungere una certa sostenibilità dei suoi prodotti?

Dell’acciaio che le aziende producono in tutto il mondo, se ne produce un terzo da rottami, quindi viene sciolto acciaio già fatto. Gli altri due terzi invece sono prodotti da ciclo integrale cioè dal minerale di ferro dalla roccia tritata, il quale viene ridotto per essere purificato. Nel primo caso la produzione da rottami è molto meno impattante in termini di emmissioni di CO2. Emette circa 0,5 tonellate di co2 per tonellata di acciaio prodotta mentre il processo via altoforno emette due tonellate di co2 pertonellata di acciaio prodotta.

Incide tanto il modo di produzione.

Diciamo che la produzione di acciaio, soprattutto partendo dalle materie prime attraverso l’altoforno è molto emittente. La tendenza è quella di andare a ridurre, che vuol dire a purificare, il minerale di ferro usando un idrogeno oppure un gas. E poi vi è la tendenza di superare l’utilizzo del carbone nell’altoforno per purificare il minerale di ferro cosi’ da ottenere un acciaio piu’ green.

Quindi la coscienza deve ancora crescere nel settore.

In Europa ci sono le tasse sulle emissioni di CO2. E questo sgnifica che gli stabilimenti hanno un interesse a ridurre le emissioni. Nel settore c’è la coscienza che emettere costa, ma dal lato della domanda non si è ancora manifestata. Ci vuole più gente che si dica: compro un frigorifero a basso contenuto di CO2 e quindi sono disposto a pagare di più. Sono i consumatori che non sono molto consci di questo.

Come evitare uno sfruttamento totale della terra, dei depositi naturali di materie prime?

Il minerale di ferro viene prevalentemente dall’Australia e dal Brasile, e lo producono compagnie gigantesche quotate in borsa. Uno sfruttamento? Dipende dalla domanda, per esempio la domanda forte di automobili influenza la domanda di ferro. Tutto dipende dal fatto di domanda e offerta. Un aspetto interessante è che con una quantità di acciaio troppo grande il prezzo scende, e a quel punto viene ridotta la produzione.

Secondo lei, quali sono le sfide future nel settore dell’acciaio, delle materie prime?

Una sfida è di ridurre le emissioni durante lo scavo e la produzione, certamente. Ma sono investimenti enormi che richiedono programmi pluriennali e montagne di soldi gigantesche. Un’altra sfida importante nel commercio è il protezionismo.

Protezionismo in quale senso?

Vuol dire, se per esempio gli Stati uniti mettono in vigore la cosiddetta Section 232 e dicono che vale un dazio del 25 per cento d’importazione ci sarà meno importazione e quindi meno flussi di interscambio. I dazi sono proprio un ostacolo. E alla fine obbligano i consumatori a pagare dei prezzi più alti.

Come si evolverà il settore dell’acciaio tra 20 anni? Qual è la sua visione personale?

Credo che nel contesto della produzione continueranno i processi di concentrazione. Avremo sempre di più i giganti. I cinesi hanno concentrato la loro industria, e penso che i processi di concentrazione continueranno velocemente. Altrettanto è certo il movimento in direzione di una minore intensità di emissioni di co2 ma, come detto, richiederà tempo

Ma è difficile fare delle previsioni affidabili, anche a causa di tali conflitti come la guerra in Ucraina o altri che modificano in profondità gli equilibri geopolitici; in assenza del gas russo si ripensa a carbone e nucleare che sembravano messi da parte

How do you judge the current situation in the commodities market?

We are experiencing a generalised price increase of raw materials and semi-finished products, from agricultural products, to energy and industrial metals.

The three major product families show different dynamics and in some way the increases have different drivers, there may be important distinctions, but prices are record-breaking in all the main components of the basket. Although these are still synthetic indexes that should be analysed in detail, we can mention that the “energy” component has risen proportionally much more in the last three months than the “metals” and “agri” components, which have moved with a similar profile. Notwithstanding the due differentiation, it is all consequence of imbalance between supply and demand that has not been seen for years, so much so as to cause speculation that we are at the beginning of a so-called “supercycle”.

What are the reasons for this series of price increases? It is not just the fault of the pandemic…

Certainly not, in fact perhaps more “fault” of post-pandemic optimism. The fundamental element that leads to a price increase as pronounced as the one we are facing, is the presence of demand – actual or expected – that supply is unable to meet. As anticipated, the different commodity families follow different dynamics, it is however true that several events seem to have concentrated these years, to “prepare the ground”. We could mention: (i) last year’s floods in China and drought in parts of Latin America that have affected the availability of some agricultural products. (ii) the already very low levels of pre-covid industrial metal inventories, due to the industrial recession that most of mature economies were in, already during 2019. (iii) the further slowdown in production and consumption, combined with uncertainty during 2020, which has further reduced inventory levels.

As consequence, the post-covid recovery producing strong demand in most of the supply-chains has triggered a significant apparent demand – amplified by the need to restore stocks – accompanied by a slow recovery in production activities, hence low availability of supply.

Similarly, post-covid recovery forecasts have had an impact on energy, following the reduction of mining activity during the 2020s, when prices had fallen to economically unsustainable levels. You may recall the paradox of negative prices on oil…

For all sectors, we then add that logistics capacity, trivially shipping capacity, is given – adding new ships takes years and production plans are defined – so even if if we imagine, which is not the case in reality, that production and extraction capacities could be adjusted in a short time, logistics would become the bottleneck. In fact, we’ve also seen impressive surge in costs associated with shipping. An important cost component that ultimately affects the consumer price of finished products.

Which of the markets causes the most concern?

This question is difficult to answer, both in terms of geography and product. We are talking about commodities or essential goods, so by definition we should be concerned about all of them, because to some degree they all impact our lives

We might think that we could live a normal life without some products that we consider “accessory”, almost a fad like coffee or cocoa, but if we weigh up the matter in depth, we will realise how many economic activities are involved and depend in part on these products, how many companies depend on them – from production to the trade of finished products – making them extremely important for our economies and, consequently, for our lives.

In general, we could say that wherever there is geopolitical instability, there is concern.

There are those who hypothesise the imminent beginning of a so-called supercycle…what does that mean?

It is an open debate in the last months. Cyclicality is a typical, I would say genetic, characteristic of commodities, but a super-cycle occurs when commodities are traded for a rather long period – typically around a decade or more – at a price higher than medium-term trends, prior to the beginning of the positive cycle, which then becomes a “super-cycle”.

From the beginning of 1900 to today I think we can identify 4 super cycles: (i) at the beginning of the century, on the back of industrialisation and urbanisation of the United States, then continuing with the arms race of the First World War, with a peak around the end of the war, but ended with the crisis of 1930. (ii) starting from the Second World War with the need for materials dictated by war necessities, followed by the post-war period with the needs for reconstruction, lasting until 1960. (iii) a third cycle between the ’70s and ’80s, when economic growth highlighted in particular the limits of energy availability. (iv) and finally the early 2000s when the BRICS, especially China new member of the WTO, with their growth have contributed strong consumption of raw materials to support their economic development, until the global crisis of 2008 and for some products until 2014, when China reached the saturation of its market and reversed the trend by exporting the surplus, in combination with the surplus of global oil availability.

As you can see, these long cycles are often initiated by rather sudden events – mostly difficult to foresee reasonably in advance – that generated strong growth in demand to which the supply side could not respond as quickly.

Increasing mining capacity takes a long time, a mine takes years to get up to speed, not to mention the time needed to identify reserves. The same is true for plants producing semi-finished aluminium products or steel, which take years to build. And similarly we consider oil, gas, or agriculture. When demand remains steadily high, this time lag generates super cycles. When supply and logistics capacity finally adjust to satisfy the demand, prices stabilise.

It is natural that in regimes of low prices, general uncertainty and stable or even low demand – as in recent years – suppliers do not invest in expanding production, or extraction capacity. In some industries, there have even been closures of inefficient, or environmentally impactful, plants without the lost capacity being replaced by more modern facilities. There was simply no need.

The post-covid momentum, expectations for widespread investment plans and declared modernisation strategies in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability, generated a sudden need that, in combination with low inventory levels, immediately spilled over upstream, where supply capacity is clearly insufficient, with two consequences: 1) price growth 2) shortage of immediate available goods, with planning for the availability of required products, far into the future.

However, whether this is a prelude to a super-cycle has yet to be demonstrated. In reality, we will find out as we live. Part of the apparent low supply is dictated by low initial stock levels, the demand related to the need to restore stocks to normal levels is an important component of the current apparent demand, when this will be satisfied, we will have to see where the real demand levels will settle. Similarly, part of the reduced supply was dictated by the containment plans for covid – less hours worked, plants shut down slowly re-starting operations – the return to normal and the return of production facilities to full capacity will satisfy some of the peak demand in a reasonably short time. Basically, the reaction on the supply side could be rapid, at least to cover part of the apparent demand.

On the other hand, in the medium-long term, we can imagine that all stimulus and investment measures that states are implementing will remain, in combination with relatively low interest rates and the wave of investments linked to sustainability. If the combination of these elements prevails, it is not excluded that we will see a super-cycle.

What would be the consequences of a super-cycle?

Natural consequences are the engine of a healthy ecosystem. Higher prices generate margins that producers can re-invest in research and expansion of production capacity, thus re-balancing the supply/demand relationship, generating and redistributing economic value with all parties involved in the projects.

The shortage of supply also leads to the search for substitutes, or more efficient production models, along the various supply chains. Opportunities are created for sometimes disruptive innovations, new economic initiatives are born, and healthy competition based on the creation of lasting value is nurtured.

Basically, it is a flywheel for societies – and this is demonstrated by the 4 cases cited – historically it greatly supports economic and social development. It is no coincidence that the composite index of the price of “non-oil” raw materials moves in a synchronized manner with respect to global gross domestic product. This has been a fact since the end of the 19th century.

Bruno Mazzarelli
Commercial and logistic manager

What is the core activity of your company? Does your company focus on particular geographic markets?

Oil & Bio Trade SA founded in Switzerland, it is a professional provider of renewable energy services and solutions that improves access and promotes the adoption of clean and energy-efficient technologies. The company is in step to realize the development of a green economy with low emissions and resource efficiency.

Oil & Bio Trade SA is focused on the biofuel sector, with the prevalence of BIODIESEL and the related research of organic raw materials for their production (vegetable oils, waste oils, animal fats and fatty acids).

Thanks to the team and the network of internationally qualified experts for the certification of sustainability and product tracking, it develops technologies and methods for the realization of circular economies such as waste-to-fuel and supports international players for clean energy transition through strategic agreements in the field of distribution and logistics. The commercial support activity is also offered in the shipping sector through the collaboration with shipowners and charterers.

Equipped with SGS certification according to the ISCC (INTERNATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY AND CARBON CERTIFICATION) scheme and therefore authorized to trade biofuels, semi-processed and raw materials (UCO, Animal Fat, POME), representing for the supply chain the network between feed-stock producers and large companies that use them for the production of biofuels. The Oil & Bio Trade operates in all the European market and Far East.     

In your view, what is the actual trend of your sector?

Many institutions are looking for us, because in the coming years the HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) and Bio Jet Fuel market will have great margin of development.

Sustainability is now part of our lives, and our society is focused on the “green behaviour”.

How do you judge the perspectives of your activity’s market?

The perspectives for our business is sharp increase in the ADVANCED Bio Fuels production (Bio diesel By Used cooked oil and Animal Fat).  The mix in Gasoil 10 ppm in European market is mandatory and, increases from year to year. Now in Europe (EU) the percentage has increased to 10% (B10) and the most important Oil companies in the world, are investing heavily in the creation of Bio fuel plants.

For your company, what are the benefits of working in Lugano (Switzerland)?

Be part of a solid and established trading community is a key point for our company and Lugano under this aspect is offering interesting opportunity. For our business the nearness to Milan and Geneva is very important. And we hope that soon the Lugano Airport can reopen the flights with the most important city in Europe as London, or fundamental connection with Zurich or Geneva. We also hope the financial community, can in the future support our growth in this business competition.  

Your opinion in one sentence to describe LCTA’s activity

LCTA is a very useful tool to build contacts, public relations and to meet people who work in the field of commodities trading. Before covid -19 there were many opportunities to participate in really interesting conferences and so important to create network. Hoping soon to be able to see each other again and to continue to get to know people and company.           

Andrea Organista
Chartering Manager

What is the core activity of your company? Does your company focus on particular geographic markets?

The main activity of our company is to manage (commercially and technically) and operate vessel and cargoes into the dry bulk sector. We mainly focus our attention on the handysize market up to the Ultramax one. We do manage technically more then 30 ships and have at the moment a super eco Japan built Ultramax on charter for long period.       

In your view, what is the actual trend of your sector?

During 2020 we have been affected relatively by the covid-19, solely in Q2 2020, where the time charter rates into the dry bulk market reached very low levels. From that moment onwards we noticed a constant increase on the freight market and on daily hire rates likewise.

The gauge of activity in the dry bulk spectrum is roaring during the first four trading weeks of 2021, balancing at unusual for this time of year heights. In particular, the main trends for the fall/winter 2020-2021 look very promising. Averaging between 43.2% and 31.1% above the corresponding periods of 2019-2020 and 2018-2019 respectively, Baltic Dry Index seems to have left behind the exogenous shocks of Covid-19 initial jolt in early 2020. Additionally, exceptionally cold weather sweeping through China has materially increased power demand, having a positive bearing to Baltic indices as well.

How do you judge the perspectives of your activity’s market?

After an estimated sharp contraction of 3.5 per cent in 2020, global economy is projected to grow a solid 5.5 per cent in 2021 and 4.2 per cent in 2022, according to the latest update of IMF world economic outlook. Indicative of the global economy course reversal is the fact that the Fund has revised its 2020 estimate 0.9 percentage points higher than projected in the October WEO forecast. The fundamentals of the sector are trending the dry bulk in a positive way for the 2021 year, since the order book has never been so low during the last decade and the booming outlook for the world economies is promising.

For your company, what are the benefits of working in Lugano (Switzerland)?

Being part of a solid and established trading community is a key point for our company and Lugano under this aspect is offering interesting opportunity. This city and in particular its eco-system can absolutely advantage companies that works and operate in our fields.

Lugano is the 3rd most important city when it comes to business in Switzerland and has always been very attractive for investors. Lastly, on a personal note, for someone like us that have always been related to the sea, as we come from Naples, to still be connected to this element  through the lake is definitely a plus.

Your opinion in one sentence to describe LCTA’s activity

LCTA’s activity can help different backgrounds to match for business opportunities and can boost the networking process into the trading/shipping and finance fields.          

La Lugano Commodity Trading Association (LCTA) è un’associazione senza scopo di lucro e riunisce aziende attive nell’ambito del commercio di materie prime, delle spedizioni, delle assicurazioni e del finanziamento di questo settore. Nel 2020 la LCTA ha festeggiato i suoi primi 10 anni e dopo un decennio, il Presidente Thomas Patrick ha deciso di dimettersi. Il Comitato Esecutivo della LCTA, secondo gli statuti, ha eletto il nuovo Presidente: Matteo Somaini, General Manager Finance, DITH. La LCTA vorrebbe cogliere l’occasione per ringraziare il Presidente uscente e sottolineare l’eccezionale contributo da lui dato alla nostra associazione. Thomas Patrick ha sempre mostrato un grande impegno e investimento personale ed è stato fondamentale per i progressi che abbiamo fatto come associazione in dieci anni.

Il cambio di Presidente è stato comunicato ai soci della LCTA in occasione dell’Assemblea Generale Ordinaria che purtroppo quest’anno, a causa della pandemia di COVID-19, non ha potuto tenersi in presenza, ma è stata organizzata in forma scritta. Vorremmo così presentarvi il nuovo Presidente della LCTA con un’intervista.

Sig. Somaini, lei è coinvolto nella LCTA dall’inizio, 10 anni fa, cosa ci può dire dell’evoluzione dell’associazione negli anni?

Quando ci siamo incontrati per la prima volta più di dieci anni fa – la Camera di Commercio, una società di trading e una banca – eravamo sei persone consapevoli che il nostro ambiente fosse in rapida evoluzione, con l’obiettivo di creare valore nelle aree della formazione, del networking e della comunicazione con il pubblico. Dopo dieci anni, la LCTA conta 53 associati e facciamo parte della STSA – l’associazione nazionale con cui coordiniamo la maggior parte delle iniziative pubbliche riguardanti il ​​settore. La nostra associazione organizza formazione continua per le persone attive nel commercio di materie prime e abbiamo avviato da alcuni anni il corso post-laurea “CAS Commodity Professional”, in collaborazione con la Zug Commodity Association e la Hochschule Luzern. Organizziamo una conferenza annuale che attrae a Lugano persone da tutta Europa e partecipiamo ad eventi selezionati all’estero, puntando a creare nuove opportunità per i nostri soci e promuovendo Lugano come importante piazza per il commercio internazionale di materie prime.

È il risultato del duro lavoro del nostro segretario, del presidente uscente e del board, con la collaborazione di tutti i nostri associati. Dieci anni fa non era scontato, soprattutto vista la scarsa abitudine delle nostre aziende al confronto con il pubblico e a fare sistema.

Qual è secondo voi il più grande punto di forza di LCTA?

Direi che è il senso di comunità. In Ticino siamo circa 70 aziende ed impieghiamo oltre 2.000 persone. Con il tempo credo sia maturata nei soci la consapevolezza che non siamo solo individui che lavorano nello stesso settore, spesso si occupano di materie prime diverse, a volte competono sullo stesso mercato. Siamo una comunità, condividiamo lo stesso territorio (Lugano è la nostra base, il mercato globale è il nostro ambiente di lavoro), condividiamo interessi e valori. Penso che la consapevolezza di questo senso di comunità sia allo stesso tempo il principale punto di forza dell’associazione, nonché uno dei risultati più significativi della LCTA nel primo decennio di attività.

Cos’è particolarmente importante per lei come Presidente della LCTA?

Sicuramente considero in primo luogo che tutti i soci si sentano rappresentati nei valori dell’associazione, con l’obiettivo di preservare e far crescere la comunità che abbiamo “scoperto”. In parallelo, la LCTA dovrebbe continuare a concentrarsi per supportare i membri e le nuove aziende del settore, condividendo il know-how e creando valore attraverso la nostra rete.

Cosa non vedi l’ora di fare come Presidente dell’associazione?

Quando abbiamo iniziato a discutere l’idea dell’associazione, nel 2010, stavamo superando una delle più gravi recessioni economiche della storia, percepivamo che il mondo sarebbe stato diverso e avremmo dovuto adattare rapidamente il nostro modus operandi, per soddisfare nuove esigenze, soprattutto sotto la spinta del settore finanziario. È stato uno dei motivi che ci ha uniti. Oggi ci troviamo di fronte a qualcosa di simile, in una certa misura più estremo, probabilmente più rapido, che certamente influisce pesantemente sulle nostre vite quanto sui nostri modelli di business.

La Svizzera è il principale paese al mondo per il finanziamento del commercio di materie prime, primo paese per il trading di energia, metalli e materie prime agricole, e il Ticino è uno dei tre Commodity hub in Svizzera. Compagnie di navigazione con sede in Svizzera movimentano oltre il 20% delle merci spedite via mare. Abbiamo le migliori aziende che forniscono servizi, gestiscono logistica e rischi, a tutti i livelli della catena di fornitura di ogni categoria di merce.

Non vedo l’ora di collaborare con il nostro board, tutti i nostri membri e i nostri colleghi in Svizzera – e perché no in altre importanti piazze in tutto il mondo, come Londra, Singapore e Dubai – per raccogliere le nuove sfide. È un’opportunità di innovazione unica, non solo basata sulla tecnologia. Possiamo guidare la trasformazione attraverso un’innovazione responsabile e spostare l’industria verso un approccio basato sulla co-opetition, mirando a risultati di lungo periodo e sostenibili, per creare valore per tutti gli stakeholder.

1. What is the core activity of your company? Does your company focus on particular geographic markets?

Founded in Lugano in 1952, the Cornèr Bank Group is an independent Swiss private bank group operating on the national market as a full-service bank. Lugano is Switzerland’s third-largest banking centre, after Zurich and Geneva. Active across the whole range of traditional banking services, the Cornèr Bank Group specialises in the Private Banking sector, as well as in the areas of lending, Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club payment cards (Cornèrcard) and online trading (CornèrTrader) – the core businesses on which the growth of the Cornèr Bank Group is based.

2011 brought a new acquisition to the Group: Zurich-based BonusCard.ch AG, a company engaged in the payment cards sector. 2012, on the contrary, was the year of the creation of CornèrTrader. This division offers private and institutional investors innovative multi-asset platforms for trading online. Through these platforms, investors can access the world’s financial markets and take advantage of personalised service and assistance from Account Executives specialised in this field.

Among the main innovations of 2015 was the direct issue of structured products on the Swiss market. This enabled the Cornèr Bank Group to join the Swiss Structured Products Association (SSPA), making it the Association’s first member bank from Ticino. Also in 2015, the acquisition of Diners Club Italia, in Milan, and the Slovenian Dinit d.o.o., the service company for the Diners Club  brand at the European level, extended the Group’s scope of action in the payment cards sector.

The decision to keep the Head Office and Executive Board in Lugano reflects the Bank’s strong link with the local economy. Over the years, Cornèr Bank has opened offices in other leading Swiss financial centres and launched a vital process of internationalisation. The specific aim is to diversify and extend the Bank’s own range of products and services to keep pace with the increasing market globalisation and a more cosmopolitan clientele.

As regard to equity, the Cornèr Bank Group currently boasts an impressive capital ratio, with around three times the minimum statutory requirement. In terms of capital soundness, Cornèr Bank has been on the podium in Switzerland according to the world financial statistics compiled in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 by “The Banker”. On June 2019, the bank has received a BBB+ from Fitch Ratings agency.

Cornèr Bank Group consists of the Lugano-based parent bank Cornèr Bank Ltd., the four Swiss branches in Chiasso, Geneva, Locarno and Zurich, the affiliated Cornèr Bank (Overseas) Limited,  BonusCard.ch Ltd., Cornercard UK Ltd., Diners Club Italia S.r.l. and Dinit d.o.o.​Since 2015,

2. In your view, what is the actual trend of your sector?

Today with all difficulties, Trump’s policy, european duties and finally the Coronavirus, the market is under pressure.

Already last year the trend was not positive and at the moment we can say that the market has a bearish trend.

Maybe the second part of the year should be better, but making prediction is always a hard exercise.

3. How do you judge the perspectives of your activity’s market?

Again the world is becoming more tricky and it is not evident to anticipate the future, especially during the last months, as explain before.

Nevertheless I think a market which is always in movement, can offer good opportunities.

What is important to say that Cornèr Bank is not comparable as big banks or banks who used to work in Trade Finance activities. For us this is a niche sector.

4. For your company, what are the benefits of working in Lugano (Switzerland)?

Lugano is part of Switzerland, a country who has a political stability, in the centre of Europe, with his “swiss label” well known all over the world.

Switzerland is also the country of many companies who are active in trade finance and raw materials activities.

Lugano is one of the big place in Switzerland for the trading of raw materials with Geneva and Zug.

So I think being near of companies is extremely important.

5. Your opinion in one sentence to describe LCTA’s activity

LCTA helps companies who want open a new reality in Ticino, gives the opportunities having a direct contact with the authority of the Canton.

LCTA offers to companies through his networking to know expert in many sectors like shipping, financing, and offers also high level trainings in different sectors.

Philippe Thürler, Trade Finance Specialist
Cornèr Banca SA // Cornèrcard // CornèrTrader

Foto © Fabrice Villard

Antonio Gerli
Commercial Director

What is the core activity of your company? Does your company focus on particular geographic markets?

Our company, together with subsidiaries in the Czech Republic and Turkey, trades raw materials for the metallurgical and steel industry. In particular, we deal with non-ferrous metals (aluminium, copper, nickel, tin, zinc, lead and minor metals) and noble ferroalloys (based on molybdenum, vanadium, titanium, niobium, tungsten and others). We mainly operate as principals, buying, storing and reselling to consumers; we also have territorial representation as agents and distributors on behalf of some foreign producers.

In your view, what is the actual trend of your sector?

Our sector is perhaps the most globalised one, and therefore subject to the great influence of international geopolitical events. Phenomena such as the imposition of duties and tariffs, or events such as pandemics have an immediate (and often negative) impact on international trade and the economic growth prospects of nations. Over a longer period, however, there is no doubt that the increased urbanization of the world population and technological development are phenomena that support the use and trade of metals.

How do you judge the perspectives of your activity’s market?

Partially negative in the immediate term, precisely because of the limiting factors mentioned earlier; certainly improving in the long term. Precisely for this reason, for us traders, it is necessary to equip ourselves with more and more financial facilities able to sustain for prolonged periods of time a stagnant or even shrinking market, so as to be ready to seize the reversals of the trend and take advantage of the peaks of rise. All this requires long dedication to customer needs and loyalty based on quality of service and trust in confidentiality and responsiveness.

For your company, what are the benefits of working in Lugano (Switzerland)?

Lugano is in a magnificent position from a geographical point of view: north enough to be in the heart of Europe, and also south enough to guarantee an incomparable meteorological quality. At the same time it is at 2-3 hours maximum by plane from the extreme west (Lisbon) and the extreme east (Moscow, Istanbul) of Europe. This puts it in direct contact with the whole EU and neighbouring countries. In addition, Lugano has the advantage of being in Switzerland, the nation in Europe most “friendly” to trading sector.

Your opinion in one sentence to describe LCTA’s activity

The activity of LCTA allows members to have an excellent relationship with their peers in the Ticino economic environment and, by extension, in the Swiss one, as well as allowing a coordinated action to defend the interests of the category. Equally important is the educational and updating activity, addressed both to seniors with conferences and updates, and to juniors with preparatory courses for business activities.

Marco Arrighini, 
Head of Southern Region

What is the core activity of your company? Does your company focus on particular geographic markets?

Euler Hermes is the global leader in trade credit insurance (TCI) and trade-related insurance solutions such as sureties & guarantees, coverage against fraud & cybercrime and international debt collection. We help companies take control of tomorrow thanks to our unique knowledge of companies, industries and countries. In a nutshell we help our clients to choose the right customers and the right markets to avoid bad debt in the first place. Because the future is not always as expected, we predict trade and credit risk today, to protect cash flow tomorrow.

In your view, what is the actual trend of your sector?

The trend is positive and TCI is getting more and more important and frequent especially for traders and industries active with customers based abroad. TCI is an essential tool for companies of all sizes. Access to trade financing is very often subject to the presentation to the banks of a trade credit insurance.

How do you judge the perspectives of your activity’s market?

There is a very interesting future ahead. Insurtech and Fintech will change completely the way how trade financing and trade credit insurance work. It will be fascinating.

For your company, what are the benefits of working in Switzerland?

We are based in more than 50 countries all over the World and Switzerland plays an important role across the DACH Region (Germany, Switzerland and Austria). In Switzerland we have office in Zurich, Lugano and Lausanne in order to be closer to all the customers based in the 3 main Swiss-Regions where important international industries are based.

Your opinion in one sentence to describe LCTA’s activity.

LCTA is not only a networking hub but it is also a centre of  competence.