Switzerland's second largest company - a well-kept secret

Switzerland's best kept secret? Keystone

Top companies in Switzerland are rarely out of the headlines, but the country's second largest corporation is publicity shy almost to the point of secrecy. Glencore, the commodity trading to mining company based in Zug, is virtually unknown in Switzerland.

This content was published on August 17, 2001

It is, however, better known abroad - sometimes in controversial circumstances. In May, for example, the company was stopped by the United States, France and Britain from purchasing Iraqi oil after it allegedly illegally diverted a shipment of Iraqi crude from the US to Europe.

After Nestlé, Glencore is the second richest corporate entity to be based in Switzerland with a turnover of $48 billion (SFr82.5 billion) in 2000.

The company, based in Baar in canton Zug, employs 350 staff in Switzerland, and has some 2,000 other employees working in a further 50 countries.

The controversial Belgian-born billionaire Marc Rich founded the company in 1974. He started with a few partners dealing in oil, diversified into metals and minerals and was bought out by management in 1994.

Repeated requests for an interview from swissinfo were met with silence. And even industry analysts were unwilling to comment on Glencore for fear of upsetting their relationships with the corporation.

Glencore has granted just one major interview to a Swiss media outlet this year, apparently preferring to keep a low profile.

On the surface, there is no reason why Glencore should make an effort to communicate. It is, after all, a privately owned company, not answerable to stock market investors.

Most of Glencore's operations appear to take place outside Switzerland. Earlier this month, the group unveiled plans for a long-awaited SFr3.8 billion ($2.2 billion) flotation of its Australian and South African coal assets.

The company plans to sell at least 55 per cent of Enex Resources, described as the world's largest coal exporter.

Glencore owns 11 mines in Australia and 14 in South Africa, which produced 40 million tonnes of thermal coal last year. And the outlook for the group looks good with demand for coal expected to grow by 30 per cent by 2005.

Switzerland's interest and expertise in the financial sector has attracted a host of international companies. Glencore fits into this category.

With its worldwide business activities - and as Switzerland's second-largest concern - it may be surprising that the public knows so little of Glencore. Their website (see below) will not offer many more clues.


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