Reuters Investigates

Insight and investigations from our expert reporters

The coming of Glencore

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Checking background for our Special Report on Glencore, “The Biggest Company You Never Heard Of”, I stumbled on the novel “The Fortunes of Glencore” by Charles Leveglencore acquisitionsr. On a whim I read it. There were some intriguing parallels between the 20th-century company and the book, even though that was published in 1857.

The further I read, the more I asked myself if this little heard-of scrap of 19th-century literature couldn’t be used as some kind of coda. It sounds crazy, but maybe you can understand the temptation. Glencore is a secretive, controversial Swiss-based commodities trading and mining giant, and even though it may soon be quoted on the London and Hong Kong stock exchanges, it works hard to maintain its mystique. Could this little novel be some kind of “Da Vinci Code” for Glencore?

MYSTERY AND EXILE

The Glencore of the book is a mysterious figure to all those around him: “Little, or indeed nothing, was known of Lord Glencore…” it says. “‘Who is Lord Glencore?’ people would say. ‘What is the strange story of his birth? Has anyone yet got at the truth?’”

That’s the company to a tee.

We know it emerged from a management buyout of Marc Rich + Co — Rich was a fugitive from U.S. justice in Switzerland after he was found to have sold oil to Iran during the 1979-81 hostage crisis. But apart from that, beyond a sense that it’s an omnipresent commodities trader with secretive high- level connections in just about any country that has raw materials, there’s not an awful lot more in the public consciousness.

Steve Cohen and the law of big numbers

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By Matthew Goldstein

All too often the bigger an investment fund gets, the more difficult it is to continue to generate blowout returns.

Maybe the best example of a fund getting so popular and ultimately unwieldy is Fidelity’s Magellan fund.  One has to wonder if on a smaller scale, the same phenomena is happening to Steven Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors.

from Environment Forum:

California hopes carbon market sparks innovation

OBAMA/California's lonely attempt to take on climate change by setting up a cap-and-trade market for carbon is all about jobs for many in the Golden State -- as shown in a Reuters Special Report issued today.

Carbon prices may jump high enough to send companies scrambling for new technology, whether it's carbon-free energy, efficiency widgets, or something yet to be cleaned up. Longtime clean tech advocate Dan Reicher, who has left Google's clean energy efforts to run a new Stanford center for energy policy and finance, sees a high price of carbon as great for investors and venture capitalists who back them.

China’s U.S. debt holdings make it a powerful negotiator

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Worrying about the power China has over the U.S. as America’s largest foreign creditor has become a national pastime. It’s a bipartisan issue in Congress and a favorite subject among pundits lamenting the decline in U.S. influence around the world. But could China really use its Treasury purchases to shape U.S. policy? Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks and obtained by Reuters suggest that has already happened.

Emily Flitter’s special report outlines a diplomatic flare-up between the two superpowers following the U.S. financial crisis. Chinese officials said they were worried about the safety of their U.S. investments. U.S. diplomats worked hard to ease the tensions, but the conflict ultimately led to the request of a personal favor by a top Chinese money manager in a meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

ElBaradei: From nuclear diplomat to Cairo politics

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EGYPT/ELBARADEI-SQUAREWho is Mohamed ElBaradei, the professional Egyptian opposition figure who joined the ranks of disaffected Eypgtians to topple President Hosni Mubarak after thirty years in power?  Does the 68-year-old diplomat and lawyer have what it takes to become Egypt’s next president if it holds free and fair elections? 

Louis Charbonneau’s special report takes a close look at ElBaradei’s performance while at the helm of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where he stood toe-to-toe with the Bush administration over Iraq and Iran. It tells how he survived a plot by hawkish U.S. politician John Bolton to oust him and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 jointly with the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.  It looks into his questionable record as a manager while showing that he may have what it takes to lead Egypt — if he wants the job. 

The hurricane guessing game

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Unpredictable weather is making life difficult for insurers — see today’s special report: ”Extreme weather batters the insurance industry.”

By Ben Berkowitz

Every year forecasters at Colorado State University take their most educated guess as to how the next year’s hurricane season will unfold. It always draws headlines, but as history shows, that initial “best guess” is usually somewhat far off the mark.

Jamie Dimon: Good banker? Bad banker?

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The U.S. mortgage business is a “mess” in need of overhaul, JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon reckons.

(See our special report on Dimon today: “Jamie Dimon wants some R-E-S-P-E-C-T”)