Vitol posts $13bn profits in second consecutive year of bumper results

Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free

Vitol, the world’s largest independent commodity trader, earned profits far in excess of its rivals for the second year running, consolidating its position as one of the most powerful players in global energy markets.

The privately owned group, whose chief executive is based in London, made $13bn of net profit in 2023, according to people with knowledge of the company’s results.

Although down from the record $15.1bn Vitol made in 2022, the net profit figure is more than three times higher than the $4bn it reported in 2021, illustrating how much Vitol has benefited from disruption to energy markets in the past two years.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 sent energy prices soaring as the west responded with sanctions, leading to one of the biggest shifts in global commodity flows in history. Price volatility eased in 2023, but commodity flows remain disrupted.

“The scale of this realignment should not be underestimated,” chief executive Russell Hardy said in a statement reporting on the group’s 2023 turnover last month, adding that the rerouting of Russian product and Houthi attacks in the the Red Sea had “resulted in all-time highs of oil products on-water”.

Vitol does not publicly release its financial results, which are only available when its accounts are filed in the Netherlands later in the year. The company declined to comment on the profit figure, which dwarfed its biggest competitors and was larger than some of the world’s biggest oil producers, including Italy’s Eni.

Lower commodity prices meant turnover fell to $400bn from $505bn in 2022 but the total volume of energy products traded by Vitol increased by 4 per cent year-on-year, last month’s statement said.

The growth was driven by gas and liquefied natural gas volumes, which grew by 19 per cent and 24 per cent respectively. The volume of oil and refined petroleum products that the group traded remained roughly flat at 7.3mn barrels per day.

Vitol’s closest rival Trafigura made net profits of $7.2bn in its last financial year, which ended in September, while fellow privately held energy trader Gunvor made $1.3bn, it said last week.

The second consecutive blockbuster year will mean another bumper payout for Vitol’s approximately 450 senior partners spread across the trading hubs in London, Geneva, Singapore and Houston.

It will also add to the cash pile Vitol has available to expand the business. In 2022 the group doubled its shareholder equity to $25.8bn, according to its last set of accounts.

Vitol has already begun spending some of the windfall, launching in January a €1.7bn bid to acquire Italy’s Saras, which owns the biggest single refinery in the Mediterranean on Sardinia. Last year its Turkish subsidiary Petrol Ofisi agreed to acquire BP’s downstream business in Turkey. On completion, Vitol will have invested in about 9,000 petrol stations worldwide, including 3,900 it owns in Africa through Vivo Energy.

In the UK, Vitol owns and operates five power plants through its partially owned subsidiary VPI, making it a bigger power generator than Centrica. VPI also has three more power facilities being built in the region — two in the UK and one in Ireland.


Leave a Comment