LONDON, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) remains committed to the London Metal Exchange (LME), HKEX's CEO said on Wednesday, dampening speculation it might sell the business following a nickel trading debacle last year.
The metal industry has speculated whether HKEX might sell either the LME or its clearing house, LME Clear, after a chaotic period last year that saw the LME suspend nickel trading for more than a week and cancel all nickel trades for March 8, 2022.
"We are very committed to the LME, we think it's a great institution and we look forward to make progress in all the initiatives that we have in making the market more resilient," HKEX CEO Nicolas Aguzin told a media briefing after HKEX reported its financial results.
The LME is the world's largest and oldest metals forum. It is grappling with a lawsuit and reduced nickel trading volumes after the events of March 8, 2022, when nickel prices doubled in a matter of hours.
"Clearly, last year was a difficult year," Aguzin said.
Legal and professional fees related to the nickel market suspension and consultancy fees for the LME's improvement program drove operating expenses of HKEX's commodities segment up 15% to $591 million in January-June, it said in its results.
The commodities segment includes the LME and China's Qianhai Mercantile Exchange, a physical commodities trading platform.
Nickel trading volumes revived after the LME restarted trading during Asian hours in March 2023, but are still far from the levels seen in January and February last year, before the crisis.
Higher copper trading volume compensated for low nickel trade and kept total average daily volumes (ADV) for the LME flat in the first half of 2023, HKEX said.
Nickel ADV totalled 37,000 lots - or 222,000 metric tons - down from 60,000 lots a year ago.
"Volumes have been picking up," especially in the last few days, signaling confidence in the LME service, Aguzin said. (Reporting by Pratima Desai and Polina Devitt Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)