Beijing — Commodity traders Glencore PLC and Trafigura have picked up a combined 70,479 tonnes of aluminum over the past week by winning online auctions of metal inventory dating back to China’s 2014 Qingdao warehousing scandal, according to the e-commerce platform that hosted the sales.
The stock, being auctioned on a JD.com site by the Qingdao Intermediate People’s Court, was formerly held by Dezheng Resources, the company accused of duplicating warehouse certificates to pledge metal as collateral for multiple bank loans.
The scandal rocked the metals industry and stung banks and trading houses for more than $3 billion. Dezheng founder Chen Jihong was handed a 23-year jail term in late 2018.
Glencore won an auction for aluminum ingots on Friday, bidding 485.43 million yuan ($68.55 million) for eight consignments totaling 39,745.76 tonnes, all of which entered storage in 2013 or 2014, according to a notice on JD.com.
That works out at around 12,213 yuan a ton, a discount of 14.5% to the Shanghai aluminum closing price of 14,285 yuan a ton on Friday.
At the start of June 2014, when the scandal broke, Shanghai aluminum was trading at around 14,500 yuan a ton.
Glencore rival Trafigura’s China unit, according to a separate notice on JD.com, on Aug. 18 picked up 30,733.148 tonnes of aluminum ingots for 375.11 million yuan, or around 12,205 yuan a ton.
The ingots are “as good as new,” said one trader who participated in the bidding.
“Can’t say the same for alumina,” he added, referring to stock of the substance used to make aluminum, which has also been sold on the JD.com site.
Inner Mongolia aluminum smelter Huomei Hongjun won the sole alumina auction so far on Friday, with a bid of 129.5 million yuan for 63,585.5 tonnes. That works out at 2,037 yuan a ton, versus a current alumina spot price of 2,490 yuan in northern China.
Glencore and Trafigura declined to comment, and Huomei Hongjun didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Around 16,630 tonnes of aluminum has been sold in three other recent auctions. Trafigura on Friday also took 1,625.21 tonnes of refined copper for 65.325 million yuan.
A second copper auction for 9,331.86 tonnes is open until 10 a.m. Beijing time (0200 GMT) on Saturday.
The Qingdao court’s use of JD.com follows the sale of inventories of the defunct Fanya Metal Exchange on another e-commerce platform, Taobao, in an effort to recoup funds for defrauded investors.
A Qingdao court official told Reuters on Friday the auction proceeds would first go into the court’s bank account before it is decided how to distribute the funds.