UPDATE 2-Mercuria invests in Colombia coal, commodity trade

* Swiss trader opens Bogota trading office, buys barges

* Says optimistic about Colombia’s future in commodities

(Adds details on Mercuria and Colombia’s commodities sector)

By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA, Aug 18 (BestGrowthStock) – Mercuria, one of the world’s
largest private energy traders, said on Wednesday it had opened
a trading office in Bogota and purchased a Colombian river barge
business to transport coal and other commodities.

“This is a very important entry point for us into the
Colombian market,” Juan Houlin, head of Mercuria Coal, said in a
rare statement from the Geneva-based company.

“We are very optimistic about the future of Colombia and see
it as an important country for our company now and especially in
the coming years across all our commodity products,” he said.

Mercuria, which traded nearly 1.2 million barrels per day of
crude oil last year, is the fifth-biggest independent energy
trader and deals in a range of goods including natural gas,
biodiesel and carbon emissions. [ID:nLDE64Q25W]

Chief Executive Marco Dunand told the Reuters Energy Summit
in May that the Geneva-based company was looking at boosting its
presence in coal as it further develops its upstream operations,
infrastructure and trading desks. [ID:nLDE64Q25W]

Colombia, the world’s No. 5 coal exporter, is attractive to
coal shippers because it can export cargoes across the Pacific
to Asia or across the Atlantic to Europe. [ID:nN16265600]

The main exporters of thermal coal from Colombia are the
privately held companies Drummond and Glencore, plus Cerrejon
Coal Company, a joint venture owned by BHP Billiton (BLT.L: ),
Anglo American (AAL.L: ) and Xstrata (XTA.L: ). [ID:nN16107581]

Houlin said Mercuria’s newly acquired barges, purchased for
an undisclosed sum from the Colombian company Argos, would ship
coal and other commodities along the river Magdalena, which
would be leveraged across the company’s trading business.

At present, most Colombian coal is moved by rail to ports
for shipment.

Newly inaugurated President Juan Manuel Santos has said he
plans to expand the railroad services connecting the country’s
coal areas to ports and invest in infrastructure that could help
exporters of a range of goods. [ID:nN16107581]

Colombia is the world’s No. 3 coffee exporter and is the top
producer of high-quality Arabica beans. It also produces nickel
and gold and has natural gas reserves estimated at nearly 4
trillion cubic feet.

Once seen as a failing state mired in cocaine violence, the
Andean nation has seen a boom in foreign investment as a result
of investor-friendly policies and a crackdown on guerrilla
violence, which Santos has vowed to continue. [ID:nN17115964]

Colombia is widely expected to soon regain its investment
credit grade rating. [ID:nN16265600]
(Editing by Sue Thomas and Jane Baird)

UPDATE 2-Mercuria invests in Colombia coal, commodity trade