By Jacob Bunge
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Trading on a small Dubai futures market backed by CME Group Inc. (CME) could pick up more steam after the Chicago-based exchange operator boosted its stake in the platform earlier this year, according to CME's new chief executive.
Potential customers had wanted CME to strengthen its commitment to the Dubai Mercantile Exchange before they embraced the market's crude oil futures contract, according to Phupinder Gill, who took over as CEO of CME last week.
CME's prior 25% stake in the Dubai Mercantile Exchange was seen by some traders as translating to a "lack of commitment" by the world's largest exchange operator, Gill told investors in a presentation Tuesday.
The move by CME in February to boost its stake to 50% "could cause them to take on the contract on the DME," said Gill, who has played a key role in managing CME's international alliances in his prior role as president.
The DME reported a trading record Tuesday for the month of April with more than 123,000 contracts changing hands, topping a record set in March by 9%. By comparison, CME's New York Mercantile Exchange division, the company's main hub for energy trading, saw 1.6 million contracts change hands per day last month.
The DME's flagship market is in Oman sour crude futures, which the exchange and CME have sought to position as a better tool for pricing the variety of oil produced in the Middle East versus the sweeter West Texas Intermediate variety traded on the Nymex and the Brent oil contract offered by rival IntercontinentalExchange Inc. (ICE).
While Oman futures trading has grown, only the relatively small Gulf producers Dubai and Oman use the contract to price their oil exports. Major exporters Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Iraq and Iran all use the Dubai and Oman crude assessments published by Platts, a division of McGraw-Hill when setting their official selling prices for crude sales to the booming Asian region.
At the same time that CME raised its stake in the DME to 50% in late February, the Oman Investment Fund raised its holding to 29% from 25%. The balance of 12% is held on a non-voting basis by strategic investors that include Vitol, Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA, RDSA.LN), J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Morgan Stanley (MS), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Concord Energy.
Trading volumes on the DME last year climbed 19% over 2010 levels, with an average 3,505 contracts traded a day.
-By Jacob Bunge, Dow Jones Newswires; 312 750 4117; firstname.lastname@example.org
--Summer Said and Iman Dawoud contributed to this article.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 08, 2012 15:32 ET (19:32 GMT)