Former VTB executive Riccardo Orcel joins UK agricultural trader Quanton as chairman
By Pamela Barbaglia and Jonathan Saul
LONDON (Reuters) – Former VTB banker Riccardo Orcel has taken on a new role as chairman of London-based agricultural trader Quanton Commodities as he seeks to revamp his career after more than a decade at the second-biggest lender from Russia.
This is the second presidency in less than three months for the 56-year-old Italian who fled Moscow to Milan following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and was named chairman of the producer of listed on London Polymetal International in March.
Orcel, whose older brother Andrea runs Italian bank UniCredit, was one of the most established Western bankers in Russia and spent 11 years at VTB Capital, the investment banking arm of VTB, where he was non-executive vice president. executive until March, when Western sanctions triggered his resignation.
“Riccardo is a leading figure in the banking world and will help us manage our finances and support our growth,” Quanton founder and chief executive Valerio Antonini told Reuters.
Orcel, who declined to comment, will now help Quanton expand its banking relationships and grow its business which was established in 2020 and is a challenger to major agricultural trading houses such as Glencore, Cargill, Bunge, Archer Daniels Midland and Louis Dreyfus. .
Orcel’s appointment comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted grain supplies to one of the world’s major exporting regions, with Russia and Ukraine responsible for more than a quarter world wheat exports.
Traders specializing in the agricultural sector have reaped big profits from the crisis, as consumer demand for food remains strong despite soaring prices.
Antonini, a former friend and business partner of the late soccer star Diego Maradona who helped forge ties with Cuban and Venezuelan leaders, sought to expand his company’s business operations amid war-triggered grain unrest in Ukraine.
“We went long long before the crisis started and have since hedged our positions in the market,” he said.
Antonini said Orcel’s appointment was unrelated to any business initiative in Russia, as Quanton was unable to market Russian wheat at present, in part due to difficulties in finding vessels .
The company, which has Benjamin Mancroft – a member of the UK’s upper house of parliament with the ruling Conservative party – on its board, has a turnover of nearly 70 million pounds ($84 million) in 2021, according to regulatory filings, rising to $405 million in the first half of 2022, with a year-end target of $600 million, Antonini said.
Orcel will work closely with Antonini on its plans to raise growth capital ahead of Quanton’s eventual listing down the line, the CEO added.
Quanton is one of the few UK-based commodities companies operating in frontier markets such as Iran.
Although Iran’s food purchases are not banned, banking restrictions using US dollars make such exchanges complex due to Washington’s sanctions on Tehran.
“It’s humanitarian food. No one touches oil or sanctioned companies,” Antonini said.
Earlier this month, Quanton sold 60,000 tonnes of German wheat to Iranian state buyer GTC – its second deal with an Iranian government buyer in a year, it said.
He added that the company was also looking to increase sales in other countries affected by the sanctions, such as Cuba.
In Africa, a major buyer of Ukrainian grain, Quanton is looking to build a multi-million grain storage facility in Uganda that will serve as a distribution hub for neighboring countries.
“If the war (in Ukraine) does not end in the next five months, the grain shortage will start to cause serious problems,” Antonini predicted.
($1 = 0.8293 pounds)
(Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia and Jonathan Saul; Editing by Mark Potter)