Glencore: an audacious business model in the dock

In a sleepy Swiss town 30km from Zurich sits one of the companies that keeps the global economy ticking, supplying the raw materials that touch every facet of modern life from mobile phones to automobiles and petroleum. Since its creation 44 years ago Glencore has become the biggest commodity trader in the world. But with that has come notoriety and this week the attentions of a US Department of Justice investigation into bribery and corruption that some believe will force the Switzerland-based group to change its business model. As well as being a major miner, it is the ultimate middleman, moving millions of tonnes of commodities across the globe, linking the suppliers of raw materials - often in developing countries - with consumers in wealthy and fast-growing ones, earning wafer-thin margins on large volumes along the way. But what sets Glencore apart from its peers is its appetite for risk, at times pushing the limits of what is allowed in the modern global economy.

 
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