Goldman Sachs offers aluminum to clients waiting for supply

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said it’s offering end-user clients a faster way to get aluminum that’s in warehouses it owns as the bank laid out proposals to address concerns about limited supply.

So far no client has accepted the bank’s offer to swap their metal stuck in queues for immediately available aluminum, Goldman Sachs President Gary D. Cohn said in a CNBC interview. Consumers should be prioritized over other clients in getting aluminum out of warehouses and the London Metal Exchange system needs more transparency, Goldman Sachs said in a statement today.

“We feel horrible for consumers if they can’t get metal; we don’t believe that to be the fact,” Cohn, 52, said.

The beverage industry has complained that banks and other warehouse owners are manipulating aluminum supplies and slowing deliveries to drive up the price. Goldman Sachs said that while longer queues in recent years have been a factor in the premium of physical metal over the spot price, the waits are not driving up the overall price of aluminum, which has fallen since 2006.

Goldman Sachs’s offer is “great news and any pricing manifestations due to warehousing issues will hopefully resolve going forward,” Commodity Futures Trading Commission member Bart Chilton said. “This entire matter continues to raise the larger issue of banks owning physical commodities, warehousing and delivery mechanisms.”

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Costs were inflated by $3 billion worldwide in the past year because of the backup in aluminum supplies, Tim Weiner, a global risk manager at brewer MillerCoors LLC, told a U.S. Senate panel last week.

Goldman Sachs has secured metal directly from producers to be able to swap with end-user clients, Cohn said. The firm has made the offer at the LME spot price with no premium, according to a person briefed on the talks who asked not to be named because the offers were private.

“We are consulting with the metals trade and industry on a proposal to amend the delivery out obligations of warehouse companies with long queues, and we encourage market users to contact us with their views,” Miriam Heywood, a spokeswoman for the LME, said in an e-mailed statement.

In February 2010, Goldman Sachs bought Romulus, Michigan- based Metro International Trade Services LLC, which as of July 11 operated 34 out of 39 storage facilities licensed by the LME in the Detroit area, according to LME data. Goldman Sachs said in today’s statement that it isn’t involved with the daily management of the company.

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