I have been working since last year on a whitepaper (sponsored by Trafigura) on The Economics of Commodity Trading Firms. After about a month of limited theatrical release, the paper is now publicly available at the link.
Even if I do say so myself, the paper provides a pretty thorough overview of commodity trading firms, ranging from their economic function as “agents of transformation” (of commodities in space, time, and form), to risks and risk management, to corporate structure (private vs. public), to capital structure, to asset ownership, to the systemic risks (or lack thereof) of commodity trading.
One of the main takeaways for me was the diversity of commodity trading firms. Making generalizations is difficult. Another takeaway (related, in a way) is that some of the conventional wisdom about these firms (e.g., there is a general trend to asset ownership and vertical integration) is not correct.
But rather than discuss the report extensively here, I leave it to you all to read it. Comments welcome.