Back in November, SparkSpread, an online energy publication, broke the news that Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) would be putting its uranium trading desk up for sale due to lax prices for the material and stricter regulations relating to the bank’s commodities activities.
At the time, Goldman said it had no intention of exiting the commodities business. Fast forward several months, and it looks like the bank is substantiating the rumor with the sale of its uranium trading business.
As Reuters states, very few people know that Goldman Sachs has been in the business of trading raw uranium, or yellowcake as it is known. But the bank can trace its uranium business back to an apartheid-era South Africa-based trading corporation that sold Iran its only source of foreign yellowcake over 35 years ago.
However, over the course of the last four years, the bank has been collecting low-grade stockpiles of the nuclear fuel through its nuclear trading desk, known as NUFCOR International. The news outlet writes that Goldman’s stockpiles are currently larger than those held by Iran, and big enough to run China’s nuclear plants for about a year. Beyond that, Goldman has a deal to market a large portion of uranium production from AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE:AU), one of South Africa’s largest miners.
Banks pulling out of commodities
Goldman Sachs entered the uranium trading business in 2009, along with Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB), the second-largest bank in Europe, when supplies were tight and prices were ready to spike. However, since Fukushima, the uranium price hasn’t returned to its previous highs.
With the Federal Reserve under pressure from Washington to restrict Wall Street’s role in commodities trading, there has been an increase in the number of banks ditching their commodities businesses in recent months. In December, Deutsche Bank announced that it would be giving its commodities business the boot following stricter regulations from governments when it came to trading commodities. Prior to that, JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) also announced their exodus from physical commodities, citing the same reasons.
Securities Disclosure: I, Vivien Diniz, hold no investment interest in any of the companies mentioned.