E-Trader Altra Energy Gets Financial Equity Boost from Conoco
Altra Energy Technologies Inc. got a financial boost last week
from Conoco Inc., which made an undisclosed equity investment in
the Houston-based electronic trading system. Conoco was already
using Altra systems for some of its end-to-end natural gas and
natural gas liquids electronic trading and transaction processing
and natural gas pipeline operations management systems.
So far this year, Conoco has made three equity investments in
the growing e-commerce market. In April, Conoco was one of 14
founders of a global procurement exchange for energy and
petrochemical companies, and also made an equity investment in
HoustonStreet Exchange for wholesale trading of crude oil, refined
products and natural gas through its trading site,
Mike Johnson, Conoco's vice president for natural gas and gas
products, said the investment will help the Houston-based company
to "substantially increase" its volume of electronic transactions
for all of its energy commodities.
"Altra's commitment is to provide a quality product and service
that connects the trading clearinghouse to the transactional
requirements of the commodity itself," Johnson said. He said that
for natural gas trading systems, Altra offers the industry's first
mid-office and back-office support.
AEP, BP Amoco and Koch Industries have already made investments
in the Houston-based company, and Altra executive vice president
Mark Crosno said that Conoco was a "good fit" with its existing
energy investment participants.
"Conoco's investment in Altra is yet another vote of confidence
in our trading systems and supporting transaction management
solutions, and in the growing adoption of online trading," Crosno
Bill Mohl, Altra's vice president of commercial operations, said
that the volume of trading in the second quarter was flat compared
with the first quarter, but said that the number of trades was up.
"We saw the volume of trades down, but the number of trades up
by 25%," Mohl said. He attributed his company's steady growth to
the "market makers" like Conoco, which he said have "made a big
difference in attracting other businesses to the service."
Other competitors entering the market have made a difference, he said, but
"nobody out there has real liquidity." Altra now faces competition from new
startups like powerhouse online EnronOnline, already considered the world's
leading online trader based on revenue despite the few months it's been in
the marketplace, and Coralconnect (see NGI, May
Mohl said he "truly believes" that e-commerce will provide more
trading in the years to come, especially as the volatility of the
market settles down. "We've seen the power trading up in July, and
I'd say that e-trading is here to stay."
Along with garnering strong energy industry support, Altra
continues to take in technology honors. For the second year in a
row, it is listed in Red Herring magazine's "Top 100" technology
companies, and in May it was named by AMR Research as the world's
No. 1 business-to-business independent trading exchange. Altra was
formed only four years ago by Williams and the former PanEnergy
(now Duke Energy), and was one of the very first online trading
systems for natural gas.
Carolyn Davis, Houston