​Shell makes bet on digital LNG trading with GLX investment

LNG shipping Image: Shell

Royal Dutch Shell plc, the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas merchant, is making a bet on the trade’s digital future by taking a minority investment in the online platform developer GLX Digital.

GLX is among a handful of companies using web-based trading to modernize the world of physical commodities and help deepen liquidity. Since creating its online LNG auction hub, the Perth, Australia-based company has shifted toward helping customers create their own digital trading systems.

Shell is the highest profile investor in GLX, which also include Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. It dominates global LNG trade, handling about 22 per cent of the world’s volume, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Neither Shell nor GLX would disclose the value of the investment or size of the stake.

“This digital platform is a natural step in the continued evolution of the global LNG market and as a leading LNG player, we are keen to be part of this,” Steve Hill, an executive vice president for Shell, said in a statement. “The sophistication of the GLX software in combination with the high caliber and quality of the management team gives GLX a strong base for the future.”

Founded in 2015, closely held GLX has about 23 employees and is trying to grow to 40 in the next year, Chief Executive officer Damien Criddle said by phone. It has about 75 companies signed up, and revenue from subscriptions is up approximately 600 per cent year-on-year and is “in the seven figures,” he said, without providing further details. The company isn’t profitable yet as it focuses on growing and eventually expanding into other commodity sectors.

Criddle said the company’s shift away from controlling its own online LNG marketplace and toward helping companies build their own has resonated with traders, who prize the privacy of their deals.

“We’re digitalizing the LNG chain, but we’re not standing in the middle collecting data,” Criddle said. “What became clear to us is that while our customers like data, they don’t like sharing their own data, and we respect that.”

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.