April 4, 2016 / 9:42 PM / 2 years ago

Attendance slips, but Chile Cesco copper event still a magnet for industry

* Financial world mostly absent from Cesco

* China is consumer centric, Cesco is producer centric

By Pratima Desai and Anthony Esposito

SANTIAGO, April 4 (Reuters) - Attendance at the copper industry’s annual jamboree in Chile has fallen due to fewer financial participants, but Cesco remains relevant to producers, consumers and traders who find ample opportunities to make deals and meet kindred spirits.

About 1,500 people have signed up for Wednesday’s keynote Cesco dinner, down from 1,700 last year, the organisers said. They would not give numbers for prior years, but Erwin Faust, chief financial officer at Europe’s largest copper smelter, Aurubis, said around 2,500 went in 2010.

Delegates said attendance has fallen because the financial world is now mostly absent.

“I’ve been here for a week, it feels quieter, more like it was before commodities became a game for investors and banks,” a source at a commodity trader said on Sunday.

“But I’ve probably done as much business as I did in the same time last year. For now Cesco is as important as it ever was for deals, meeting people, renewing relationships.”

The absence of financial institutions has merit, some attendees said, explaining that the industry picture that emerges will reflect real fundamentals.

Many fund managers and banks jumped into copper during the buying spree that helped boost prices above $10,000 a tonne in February 2011. Many left the market nursing heavy losses as prices crashed. Today, copper is trading around $4,800 a tonne.

“The financial side isn’t coming to this event any more, that’s where I’ve noticed the big difference,” said Barclays analyst Dane Davis.

“The Santiago event is important, it’s at the heart of the global copper industry. (But) these low prices mean it is harder to justify coming to these conventions, because of restrictions on travel budgets.”

For some years, the chatter has been that the rise of Shanghai Cesco and LME Week Asia could undermine the relevance of the Chile event. But advocates of that view remain a minority, one delegate said, adding that most say business has been brisk and easily comparable with previous years.

“The timing of the Asian Cesco means it is better positioned for contracts and pricing negotiations,” Aurubis’ Faust said.

Still, Chile remains “a useful opportunity to meet a lot of people from the copper world in quite a short time. If you are focused on copper it is a relevant event.”

Nor has lavish entertainment come to an end. The traditional cocktail reception held on Sunday by Polish copper miner KGHM did not disappoint, sources said.

“Cesco Chile hasn’t lost any shine or importance compared to London or Shanghai, but many events this year will see a reduction in money spent because big metals companies are taking it easier on costs,” said Federico Stiegwardt, global head of metals risk management at Cargill.

“The entire copper year, London, Shanghai and other events, will be slower...China is more consumer-centric and Cesco is producer-centric, but they are both good thermometers of the market.”

Reporting by Pratima Desai and Anthony Esposito, Additional reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by David Gregorio

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