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RBS Sempra Commodities CEO Resigns

David Messer, president and CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland/Sempra Energy joint venture commodity trading unit, RBS Sempra Commodities, abruptly resigned his position Wednesday, the San Diego-based energy company announced.

Messer had originally headed Sempra's then-fledgling energy trading operations 11 years ago when the new West Coast energy holding company bought Connecticut-based AIG Trading Corp. in 1997.

Sempra offered no reason for the sudden departure, noting that CFO Mark Snell and Jeremy Wright, the chief administrative officer of RBS's markets business, will manage the global commodity trading business jointly in the interim until a successor to Messer is named.

In an internal e-mail sent from his Stamford, CT-based office, Messer told employees of Sempra's various businesses that after 26 years in the trading business he was resigning to spend more time with his family. His immediate plans, he said, involved taking "a trip with my wife, making breakfast for my kids, learning to grill a perfect steak and catching a 500-pound tuna off of Montauk."

Messer told his former colleagues he was "immensely proud" of the trading unit's accomplishments and he would gladly "do it over all again."

Sempra CEO Don Felsinger acknowledged Messer's "significant leadership" in what has become a very lucrative part of Sempra businesses in recent years, with only the recent slip in the fourth quarter last year as a blemish. "Looking forward, we have a very strong commodities franchise that continues to grow and prosper with the support of RBS," Felsinger said.

Earlier in the year Felsinger had reported profits dropping in the joint venture trading unit that had been formed in April last year ($164 million vs. $186 million in the 2007 fourth quarter), emphasizing that the results were still very strong, particularly considering the global financial crisis (see Daily GPI, March 3). Senior bank officials in the RBS Sempra Commodities joint venture have indicated to Felsinger that they have no intention of breaking up the trading combine, and they told financial news media in response to Messer's announcements that no changes are contemplated at Sempra RBS.

RBS Sempra was the sixth largest North American gas marketer during 4Q2008, moving 6.99 Bcf/d (see Daily GPI, March 19). The marketing volumes were down 14% from the 8.10 Bcf/d transacted during 4Q2007.

Formerly the head of Sempra Energy Trading, Messer continued to head the operation even after RBS acquired the controlling interest, and a joint RBS-Sempra board has been overseeing his operations.

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