Enrico Crovetto,
Managing Director

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

Spark Energy Resources’ main focus now is on supplying raw materials to the steel industry, in particular Metallurgical coke – which is the company’s core product – as well as coking coal, PCI, anthracite and steam coal for the sponge iron industry in India.

Our company has representative offices in Europe, Asia and South America and is therefore an active market player in most of the markets.

From your perspective, how does your industry perform and what is the market outlook?
The usage of coal and coke in the steel industry in Europe had declined in recent years due to the lower steel production, but this decline is not as pronounced as that of our “cousins” in the Energy sector, owing to the fact that most of these products are simply difficult to substitute due to the key chemical and physical properties required for the steel production in the traditional Blast Furnaces. Having said that, there is an undoubtedly downward trend due to the focus on “Green Steel” production.

Just as for Steam coal, the use of Metallurgical coke (and all steel-related raw materials) outside of OECD countries remains robust and on the rise, as seen by the recent addition of new production capacity. Carbon-related raw materials (for both the Power and Steel sectors) will continue to rise in the coming years, especially in Asia.

What are the advantages of having your headquarters in / operating from Lugano, Switzerland?
Even if Switzerland has lost some of its attractiveness over the years, it remains a safe haven for trading companies due to its stability and access to the banking sector. As an Italian, I believe Lugano is strategically positioned and offers a very good overall compromise when compared to other Cantons in central Switzerland, even if from a fiscal perspective there could be room for improvement.

Give a brief description of why you joined LCTA.
I think that LCTA provides a good networking environment; even though I know most of the people involved in coal trade in Ticino, it still offers a chance to meet new people from other industries and share diverse experiences. I think it is a very efficient vehicle for not only promoting the City but also helping it expand as the third trading hub after Zug and Geneva.


Diego Putzolu

Managing Director

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

The core Business of BESTCONT SA is to provide shipping and storage containers to logistic companies for transport purposes as well as to any other company wishing to provide a safe environment for goods or materials. The product range embraces the classic “Dry” container, the “Refrigerated container” (for the transport and the preservation of perishables) and several special purpose equipment such as Open Tops, Flat Racks, Open Side and Double Door containers. Our strength lies in a wide offer of flexible options for the supply of these assets. In addition to direct sales, we also provide our equipment under various leasing options (long term, master lease and finance lease agreements, also in the form of the sale and lease back). Currently, our business is rapidly growing in the Mediterranean area, in the Middle East, and in the Far East, where most of our serviceable equipment is.

From your perspective, how does your industry perform and what is the market outlook?
The container industry, especially on the lease side, is performing very good. The current geopolitical situation as well as the fast developments of emerging countries like India, Saudi and, in general, the CIS area is a big challenge business wise but it’s a source of new opportunities as new trades are being experienced as result of an increasing demand for the shipments of cargo in and out of these countries, thus encouraging the sale and the lease of shipping and storage containers. Our experience in this industry tells us that big changes may bring risks, but they are also coming with big opportunities, and it all depends on how accurate the interpretation of the facts will be to set up new plans. This is why in our company we put a lot of focus on the study and on the interpretation of geopolitical variables affecting the shipping industry.

What are the advantages of having your headquarters in / operating from Lugano, Switzerland?
BESTCONT SA is backed by a second-generation family-owned company that has been operating in Italy, in the container industry, since 1980. The desire to further expand our business internationally prompted us to seek a significant and prestigious economic hub, which we found in Switzerland. As you can imagine, to support our business model, relationships with banks and insurance companies are of vital importance. Therefore, we headed to the “capital” of industry professionals. Almost three years since the founding of BESTCONT SA, this has proven to be the best choice ever made.

Give a brief description of why you joined LCTA.
After registering with the “Chamber of Commerce of the Canton of Ticino,” we approached the LCTA believing that it could be a good starting point for introducing ourselves to the Ticino business community in this industry.

A special thanks to Mrs. Monica Zurfluh, who provided us with this opportunity to get involved and expand our network of contacts. We are confident in bringing added value to the entire group.


Giacomo and Guglielmo Benvegnù


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.


Monica Zurfluh has been appointed by the LCTA Executive Committee as the next Secretary General, succeeding Marco Passalia, who left for professional reasons. The nomination was officially announced during the 2023 General Meeting, and Monica Zurfluh gave us a brief interview in her new role.

Monica Zurfluh, how did you get to your current position within LCTA?

First of all, I would like to thank the Lugano Commodity Trading Association (LCTA) and the Ticino Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Cc-Ti) for the opportunity I have been given. Since December 2021 I am Head of the International Trade Service of the Cc-Ti and the appointment as Secretary General of LCTA is an integral part of my activities.

I began my career in August 1994 as a commercial assistant at a fiduciary service provider. In March 1998, I applied for the position of assistant to the Head of the Lugano office of the Swiss export promotion organization. I planned to stay for only a few years but ended up leaving more than twenty years later. The steps were: export specialist, internationalization consultant, and, lastly, Head of the Lugano office. The turning point occurred in the middle of 2021: Cc-Ti wanted to re-launch and revive its Export Service, and I needed some motivation. Since December of the same year, I have overseen the International Trade division.

In the past, I collaborated with my predecessor, Marco Passalia, and the LCTA on various international trips. Since joining Cc-Ti, my activity has been influenced by the multiple sanctions imposed as a result of the situation in Ukraine, as well as new regulations on industrial products and environmental sustainability. This has brought me in touch with several commodity traders. When Marco Passalia spoke of his need to step down, I decided to accept this new part-time challenge. There are several linkages with my primary occupation: for more than two decades, I have informed and advised SMEs in Southern Switzerland on international operations, with an emphasis on administrative and customs procedures. I also establish contacts and collaborate on a cantonal, federal and worldwide scale, as well as organize events. From this perspective, LCTA activities align perfectly with my core business.

In a nutshell, what are your priorities?

The LCTA was established in 2010 to foster dialogue among commodity trading firms and between them and players supporting their activities, such as banks, insurance firms as well as shipping and forwarding companies; to provide training programs enabling their staff to further enhance their skills and acquire know-how in the specific areas of trading; and to make the authorities and the public aware of the real importance of the branch. My aim is to further advance these goals, taking into account a changing geopolitical context, a more sophisticated regulatory framework and increasingly important environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. My priorities are to get to know our members and their needs, to update and consolidate our training offer, recreate a sense of community by reintroducing meetings and events, first and foremost the LCTA’s flagship event, Global Commodity Conference; last but not least, to strengthen our collaboration with the umbrella association SUISSENÉGOCE and our sister Zug Commodity Association (ZCA), and to renew synergies with the City of Lugano and the various authorities.

Interview* with Marco Galimberti, CEO of DP Trade SA, Lugano
* original interview in Italian translated 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.

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.          

The Lugano Commodity Trading Association (LCTA) is a non-profit organization that brings together companies active in commodity trading, shipping, insurance and commodity trade finance. This year the LCTA celebrates its 10th anniversary and after a decade, President Thomas Patrick has decided to resign. The Executive Board of LCTA, according to the by-laws, has elected the new President: Matteo Somaini, General Manager Finance, DITH.

The LCTA would like to take the occasion to thank the outgoing President and would like to acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by him to the association. Thomas Patrick has always shown great commitment and personal investment and has been fundamental to the progress that our organisation has achieved over ten years. The change of President was communicated to LCTA members at the Ordinary General Meeting which unfortunately this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, could not be held physically, but took place by correspondence. Through an interview we would like to introduce you the new LCTA President.

Mr. Somaini, you have been involved in LCTA since the beginning, 10 years ago, what can you say about the evolution of the association over the years?

When we met the first time more than ten years ago – the Chamber of Commerce, a trading company, and a bank – we were six people aware of a rapidly changing business environment, with the objective to create value in the areas of: education, networking and communication to the public. After ten years, LCTA counts 53 members and we are part of STSA – the national association with whom we coordinate most of the public initiatives concerning the industry. Our association organises continuing education for people active in the sector and several years ago we started the “Certificate of Advanced Study – Commodity Professional”, in cooperation with Zug Commodity Association and Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

We organise an annual conference attracting in Lugano people from all over Europe and we participate to selected events abroad, aiming to create opportunities for our members and promoting Lugano as major Trading Hub.

We see the result of the hard work of our secretary, president and board, with the contribution of all our members. Ten years ago, it was not taken for granted, especially given the little attitude of the industry to public initiatives, in the past.

What do you think is the biggest strength of LCTA?

I would say it is the sense of community. In Ticino we are about 70 companies, employing more than 2’000 people. It has become manifest to the members, with the time, that we are not just people working in the same industry, often dealing with different commodities, sometimes even competing on the market. We are a community, we share the same territorial area (Lugano is our base, the worldwide market is our business environment), we share interests and values. I believe that the awareness of this sense of community is at the same time the greatest strength of the association, as well as one of the most significant achievements of LCTA in the first decade of activity.

What is particularly important for you as President of LCTA?

My top listed consideration is that all members feel represented in the values of the association, aiming to preserve and grow the community that we have “discovered”. In parallel LCTA should focus to support members ad new companies in the industry by sharing know-how and creating value through our network.

What are you looking forward to doing as President of the association?

When we started to discuss the idea of funding the association, in 2010, we just overcame one of the most severe economic recessions of the history, we perceived that the world would have been different and we should quickly adapt our modus operandi, to satisfy new requirements, especially from the financial industry. It was one of the reasons that brought us together. Today we are facing something similar, to some extent more extreme, probably faster, certainly deeply affecting our lives as much as our business models.

Switzerland is the strongest country in the world for commodity trade finance, the first country for trading of energy, metals and soft commodities, and Ticino is one of the three commodity hubs in Switzerland. Swiss-based shipping companies handle over 20% of traded goods via sea all over the world. We have best in class companies providing services, managing logistic and risks, at every level of the supply chain of every category of commodities. I look forward to team-up with our board, all our members, and our peers in Switzerland – and why not in other important hubs around the world, like London, Singapore and Dubai – to take-up the new challenges. It is a unique innovation opportunity, not just technology based. We can lead the transformation through responsible innovation and move the industry to an approach based on co-opetition, aiming for long term and sustainable results, to create value for all stakeholders.

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