Chartering & Operations Manager, Flame SA
What is the core activity of your company? Does your company focus on particular geographic markets?
FLAME is a steam coal trading company, sourcing coal from all over the world, and selling it to customers wherever there is demand. However, FLAME’s main customers are power and cement plants, located mainly in Asia. Together with FLAME’s trading activity, we have been developing an additional business as ships operators. This allows us to provide shipping for our trading desk and also to third parties.
In your view, what is the actual trend of your sector?
In Europe, the steam coal market is declining. The reason of this is the strong opposition to it as a main source of energy, in favour of other alternative ones. Many traders and analysts expect a slow but continuous decline in the consumption of coal around the world, above all in Europe and other western countries, where the economy is still struggling to recover. However, in Asia the demand of coal should be quite firm for the time being, thanks to China and to the growth of some minor, emerging countries and markets.
How do you judge the perspectives of your activity’s market?
Maybe the future prospects of the coal market are not as good as they were a few years ago. Anyway, looking at the subject from a trading perspective, this remains an industry, where the personal relationship between the traders and their customers still makes a difference. In my opinion, this model continues to work despite the fact that the industry is now dominated by large players, and the trend is to cut out the middleman from the chain among producers and end-users. Moreover, in this business it is still possible to find new niche markets. In addition to this, new trades are growing in some parts of the world, in south-east Asia especially. FLAME already has a strong presence in Asia through a network of commercial agents, and I hope we will be able to take advantage of new opportunities from this position.
What are the benefits of working in Lugano (Switzerland)?
The Swiss banking system, with its depth knowledge of commodity trading, was one of the main reasons that motivated the founding partners to establish FLAME’s head-office in Lugano. In addition to this, the labour laws, the proximity to Italy, the stability of the country, and the quality of life in Switzerland were other key-factors. That notwithstanding, the situation has changed in the last few years. For the time being, we still consider Lugano a good place where to live and work, but, to be honest, there is definitively room to improve the attractiveness and the competitiveness of this city(and Switzerland in general) as a trading hub, also from the tax and fiscal point of view.
Your opinion in one sentence to describe LCTA’s activity
I believe that LCTA has done a superb job in putting Lugano on the map and promoting the city as an efficient and convenient trading hub. Before the crisis in the private banking sector in Ticino, few people here understood the importance of the raw material trading sector, but this is now changing also thanks to the activity of LCTA. In my opinion, the results achieved by LCTA in just a few years, are absolutely remarkable.