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July 26, 2010

British financier behind £658m cocoa trade

by Laura Roberts

A British financier is behind a £658 million cocoa trade which single-handedly moved the global cocoa market.

Anthony Ward, 50, bought 241,000 tons of cocoa beans and now owns enough to manufacture 5.3 billion quarter-pound chocolate bars. Mr Ward, who is worth around £36 million, holds so much of the market he could force manufacturers to raise the price of Britain's favourite chocolate bars.

The transaction, the largest single cocoa trade in 14 years, was carried out by Armajaro Holdings, a hedge fund co-founded by Mr Ward.

The businessman began his career as a motorcycle dispatch rider before becoming a commodities trader specialising in cocoa and coffee. The former Chairman of the European Cocoa Association has amassed up to 15 per cent of the word's cocoa stocks in the last ten years.

Mr Ward, who has an annual director's salary of £3.4 million, lives in Mayfair in London with his wife Carolyn. Outside of work he is known to be a passionate rally driver and lover of fine food and wines.

The cocoa beans from his latest trade are expected to be kept in warehouses in The Netherlands, Hamburg, London, Liverpool or Humberside and are the equivalent of the entire supply of the commodity in Europe.

Cocoa prices rose by 0.7 per cent as a result of the trade to £2,732 per metric tonne – the highest price for cocoa in Europe since 1977. It follows a series of weak harvests in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the main areas where the crop is grown.

In 2002 Mr Ward made £40 million in two months after making a similar deal. He bought 204,000 tones of cocoa when West Africa was experiencing poor harvests and political instability in the equatorial area. He then watched the price of cocoa increase from £1,400 a ton to £1,600 a ton.

Cocoa prices have more than doubled since 2007, following increased demand particularly from China and India, forcing chocolate makers to raise prices and in some cases to change recipes to use less cocoa.

Mr Ward was not available for comment.


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