Thursday, October 22, 2020

Platts: "After Hin Leong: collapse of a Singaporean oil prodigy"

From S&P Global Platts, September 24:

The Hin Leong scandal rocked the Singapore trading community earlier this year, topping many earlier bankruptcies in the commodities space in terms of financial losses. As the dust settles, Eric Yep unpicks the company’s path to self-destruction and assesses the fallout.

Hin Leong’s bankruptcy filing, on April 17, marked one of the world’s largest collapses of an oil trading firm. The story of the Singaporean company and its founder, Oon Kuin Lim, is inextricably linked with the history of the petroleum trade in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region.

Oon Kuin Lim, more popularly known as OK Lim in industry circles, started his oil distribution business around 1965, the same year that Singapore separated from Malaysia to chart its own future, after several years of political differences.

In his first affidavit to a Singaporean court in April, OK Lim said he was a “one-man-one-truck” oil dealer, selling oil bought wholesale from the oil majors to taxi companies, bus companies, and fishing boat operators as the tiny Southeast Asian country built its economy.

OK Lim, born in China’s Fujian province, built his fleet of tank-trucks in Singapore over the years and incorporated Hin Leong in 1973 as an oil trading company, followed by Ocean Tankers in 1978 as a ship chartering and management company. He started the Universal Terminal tank farm in 2008.

The early years of Lim’s business were turbulent decades for the oil industry in Singapore, whose iconic downstream refining sector has seen everything from the rise of Asian crude grades such as China’s Shengli and Malaysia’s Tapis to the rise of US shale. The city state even helped fuel the Vietnam War at one point.

By virtue of being at the heart of Asia’s fuel supply chains, Singapore has also been home to the quintessential oil trader who arbitraged between prices, regions, fuel quality and geopolitics to profit from a barrel of oil. It was briefly the stomping ground of Glencore founder and legendary commodities trader Marc Rich, who, like OK Lim, had an immigrant rags-toriches story of his own in the US.

It is not so extraordinary, then, that OK Lim grew his fortunes in Singapore, eventually becoming one of the largest traders of petroleum products in the region and a regular on the Forbes list of Singapore’s richest people. Hin Leong’s bunkering arm was Singapore’s third largest bunker supplier in 2019, accounting for 10% of local bunker sales, and was a key supplier to countries like Indonesia and Myanmar in Southeast Asia.

Anatomy of a decline

When Hin Leong’s troubles became public it was the equivalent to the collapse of an institution, shaking Singapore’s commodity trading community to the core, not only those who had exposure to the company but also everyday traders who had dealt with OK Lim for decades.

In mid-August 2020, OK Lim was charged in Singapore’s court with abetment of forgery for the purpose of cheating, after investigations by the Commercial Affairs Department into Hin Leong’s business activities.....

(click to enlarge)



Unit of Singapore's Defunct Hin Leong Trading, Ocean Bunkering, Sees Licences Pulled, Ocean Tankers Wants To Give Up Ships