Column: The return of the London Metal Exchange’s nickel curse – by Andy Home (Reuters – March 21, 2023)

LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) – The London Metal Exchange (LME) has discovered that some of its registered nickel is missing. Nine warrants, equivalent to 54 tonnes, have been declared invalid after being found to be “non-conformant with the contract specifications”, the LME said in a March 17 notice. What should have been bags of nickel briquettes grading at least 99.8% pure metal have turned out to be bags of stones.

The incident comes one month after Trafigura took a $577 million charge against cargoes of nickel that turned out to be steel. The trading company alleges “a systematic fraud” and is pursuing legal action against companies associated with Indian businessman Prateek Gupta. A spokesperson for Gupta has said that they were preparing “a robust response” to the allegations.

The latest incident also comes almost exactly one year after the LME suspended nickel trading and cancelled trades, a fateful decision that has generated a slew of lawsuits from disgruntled fund players and an unprecedented enforcement investigation by UK regulators. The LME, owned by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (0388.HK), seems to be cursed by the devil’s metal.

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