Bloomsbury Minerals Economics Ltd (BME) was founded twenty-five years ago, by Peter Hollands (then Research Director) and Barbara Sotowicz (then Sales Director). The Mining Journal Ltd and Brook Hunt & Associates Ltd were minority shareholders early on, but were bought out by the founders, who remain the controlling shareholders. Barbara’s brother Adam Sotowicz is also a shareholder in BME, besides being Managing Director of Metal Price Analytics Ltd and MF Price Analytics Ltd. Over the years, BME’s Non-Executive Directors have included Neil Seldon (now Chairman of the Roskill Group), Robert Goldstein and Mike Barden, the latter two both former Managing Directors of CRU.
In 1993, BME launched the “Copper Briefing Service”, a 12-page monthly report in easy-access newsletter style but with rigorous forecasts two years ahead of mine, smelter & refinery production, refined consumption, market balance and stocks, prices, plus treatment & refining charges (TC/RCs) for custom concentrates (copper in ore minerals) and RCs for blister (unrefined) copper. That is a level of analysis which BME supplied monthly that competitors only provided in quarterly reports.
In 2001, BME began mathematical modelling of cash prices and spreads for copper, nickel, aluminium, zinc, lead and tin. Price drivers were the rate of global industrial production (IP) growth, LME stocks, exchange rates and, for the spreads, interest rates. At that time, there were two schools of thought on base metal prices. Single-metal specialists followed market balances & stocks, multi-commodity analysts mostly believed in turning points in the IP cycle. Adam’s models showed it was the interaction between IP growth rates and stock levels that drove both prices and spreads.
That insight brought great clarity to BME’s forecasting of LME cash prices and forward spreads. This was widely noticed and, at the request of a Hedge Fund, a subsidiary, BME Price Models (BME PM), was set up in 2004 to provide traders with fundamentals-based models of prices and spreads for the LME metals, as well as Expert Systems that incorporated ‘Quant’ techniques to complement traditional technical analysis. From 2005, BME PM also became the first company to incorporate into its fundamentals-based models the impact of the financial community’s new investment vehicles in physical metals, futures and options, which introduced long-side bias to the market: a price bubble.
Performance fees from the Hedge Funds models brought BME PM and BME itself profits that are believed by its Directors to have exceeded both CRU’s and Brook Hunt’s for several years, and BME quietly became a significant investor in other companies servicing the minerals and mining sector, but outside price forecasting (of which BME was starting to take a jaundiced view, given the bubble then developing).
In 2006, BME bought into MCL (Mining Communications Ltd – owner of Mining Journal and the Mines & Money conferences) when the ‘Venture Capital’ shareholders were being bought out. In 2008, BME bought a 10% stake in FastMarkets, which ran the websites TheBullionDesk.com, BaseMetals.com and MinorMetals.com. In 2009, BME participated in a refinancing of Intierra, which went on to acquire RMG and become IntierraRMG. All those companies subsequently went into trade sales as the investments matured. BME also bought its own office building in Fitzrovia, London.
In 2010, BME bought a stake in Roskill. In 2017, Roskill acquired Heinz H. Pariser Alloy Metals and Steel Market Research of Germany. The Roskill Group now comprises Roskill Holdings Ltd and three wholly owned subsidiaries: Roskill Information Services, Roskill Consulting Group and, in Germany, Roskill Pariser. Roskill is rapidly building a conference business and in 2018 is entering the mine cost modelling and greenfield mine project appraisal fields. BME owns 37% of the Group: 240 shares out of 650. This investment is maturing.
In 2012, tiring of trying to analyse a price bubble, BME sold title to its copper publications to Intierra (in which BME was a shareholder) and the intellectual property in its models to Adam Sotowicz. In mid-2015, with the price bubble ending, BME re-entered conventional copper market analysis and, via a new 25% shareholding in Adam’s Metal Price Analytics Ltd (MPA), also returned to modelling prices – but for gold, this time (with platinum soon to follow). In December 2017, MPA formed a 50:50 joint venture (MF Price Analytics Ltd) with Metals Focus Ltd. For 2018, BME is looking to invest in early-stage companies and in a small gold trading fund, and possibly to sell its stake in the Roskill Group.