London | To understand why Xiang Guangda is regarded as the Steve Jobs of metals, look at an aerial shot of the Morowali Industrial Park on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. It is here that the Chinese businessman built a vast manufacturing complex that stands as a testament to his domination of the global stainless steel industry.
“Xiang is a visionary,” says Kenny Ives, the former head of nickel trading at Glencore. “Tsingshan’s success in both China and Indonesia over the last 10 to 15 years is extraordinary.”
Yet today the self-made billionaire is in the spotlight for another reason – a huge wrong-way bet that has brought global nickel trading to a halt and plunged the London Metal Exchange into turmoil. On Tuesday, just after 8am, the 145-year-old exchange was forced to stop trading in its benchmark nickel contract after the price more than doubled to over $US100,000 a tonne.
At the centre of the drama was Mr Xiang and his company Tsingshan Holding Group, the world’s biggest producer of nickel and stainless steel. Over several months the tycoon had amassed a huge bet that the price of nickel would fall, but when the market moved sharply the other way following the invasion of Ukraine he was left exposed to losses of potentially billions of dollars.
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