Vitol might not be a company you have heard of, but it generates more revenue than technology giant Apple and even Microsoft.
Founded in 1966, Vitol is a global energy and commodity trading company, which unlike most profitable companies, is not a government organisation or a conglomerate. With just 7,500 employees as of 2014, it ranks as the fifth largest privately-owned company by revenue. This means that despite having a labour force hundred times smaller than Samsung’s, the company still manages to rake in $270 billion dollars in annual revenue; nearly as much as Samsung.
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The company is the largest independent energy trader in the world. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with 40 offices worldwide, Vitol is not traded on stock markets. It has over 17 million cubic metres of storage where coal, natural gas, oil and so on are stored and traded. This enables the company to influence world market prices as well as international politics. In 2013, Vitol invested in its first power plant, VPI Immingham in the UK, which fulfills approximately 2.5% of UK peak electricity demand. The plant can generate 1,240 MW and up to 930 tonnes of steam per hour.
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Although the company is known for its secrecy, this has not prevented it from being plunged into controversy. In 2007, Vitol pleaded guilty to grand larceny for providing kickbacks to Iraq under the UN oil-for-food programme, paying $17.5 million in fines but avoiding sanctions against individual executives.
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In 2012, it was revealed that Vitol was buying and selling Iranian fuel oil, undermining Western efforts to choke the flow of petrodollars to Tehran and put pressure on Iran's suspected nuclear weapons programme. It had bought two million barrels of fuel oil, used for power generation, from Iran and offered it to Chinese traders, Reuters established in interviews with 10 oil trading, industry and shipping sources in Southeast Asia, China and the Middle East. Last year, according to market sources, Trafigura and Vitol dealt with Kurdish oil exports. Both, Trafigura and Vitol declined to comment on their role in oil sale.
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