Exclusive: Glencore, Vitol keep oil flowing to Greece

Wed May 30, 2012 7:03am EDT
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By Julia Payne and Emma Farge

LONDON (Reuters) - Debt-stricken Greece is surviving on oil priced at a premium from trading houses Vitol and Glencore, who have stepped in as suppliers of last resort after sanctions forced Greece to halt imports from its main supplier Iran.

Greece has been forced to halt Iranian oil purchases because of EU financial sanctions ahead of an oil embargo in effect from July 1.

The timing could hardly have been worse for Athens, which had become dependent on Iranian oil because most oil firms and banks would not extend it credit for fear it would default on its debts.

Trading sources told Reuters that Vitol and Glencore, the world's No.1 and 2 oil traders, have been supplying the bulk of the needs of Greece's top refiner Hellenic in the last two months.

Between them, the two firms have given Greece about 300 million euros ($375 million) in open credit financing, trading sources estimate, allowing Athens to keep buying oil without payment guarantees from banks.

Glencore has given credit for about 200 million euros, Vitol about 100 million, the trade sources said.

That has allowed Greece to avoid a steep slump in oil refining and escape fuel shortages. But the rescue has come at a price because the trading houses are said by traders at rival companies to be charging a hefty risk premium.

Vitol and Glencore declined to comment on their roles in supplying Greece. Hellenic also declined to comment.   Continued...

Swiss commodities trader Glencore's logo is seen in front of its headquarters in Baar, near Zurich, February 6, 2012. REUTERS/Romina Amato