Commodity trader Mercuria expects to draw up a shortlist of investors to buy 10 to 20 percent of the firm in four to six weeks and hopes a sale will be concluded by the end of the year, Chief Executive Marco Dunand said on Tuesday.
Mercuria, privately owned and one of the world's top five energy traders with a turnover of more than $100 billion, has recently diversified into other commodities and has said in the past it has considered linking up with a sovereign wealth fund to help it expand.
Dunand, who co-founded the company with veteran oil trader Daniel Jaeggi, said in an interview that negotiations with potential investors would take several months and had to be done carefully so that the right partner could be found.
"We are in a process that will take some months, but I would expect the sale to happen before the year-end," Dunand said.
"Within the next four to six weeks, we are going to narrow the list of people we are going to enter into more serious discussions with," he said.
Dunand declined to say how much the company expected to raise in the stake sale but added that it would help Mercuria expand into new areas.
"I have an idea of how much I would expect, but I can't share that at this point," he said.
Over the past year, Mercuria has spread its wings across the commodities markets, investing in trading units in metals and agriculture and setting up a joint venture with China's Sinopec Corp <0386.HK> to run a European oil tank storage business.
"SEEKING A PARTNER"
Mercuria last year hired Roger Jones, previously head of commodities trading at Barclays , to run its non-oil operations and help it compete with other large trading companies such as Vitol and Glencore .
Mercuria has hired Credit Suisse as part of its efforts to attract institutional investors and hopes to join forces with a company that will offer greater access to capital.
"Rather than seeing this as an asset sale, we are really seeking a partner," Dunand said. "It takes time to decide who we have an affinity with and who we have a synergy with."
Dunand said the acquisition of a major stakeholder in the business would not change Mercuria's orientation as a company.
"But hopefully it will allow us to get involved in new areas. It will help us seek different opportunities, and we will then be capitalized at a different level."
Market sources have said they expect Mercuria to raise several billion dollars from a large institutional investor keen to buy into commodities trading.
In the past, Singapore's state-run Temasek Holdings and its sovereign wealth fund GIC have been reported to have expressed an interest in a tie-up with Mercuria.
Others have said that Mercuria may want to strengthen its ties with China, where it has recently expanded operations.
Dunand declined to disclose the identities of any of the potential suitors.
(Reporting by Christopher Johnson; editing by Keiron Henderson and Jane Baird)