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New Singapore commodity exchange aims to launch EV nickel contract this year

By Eric Onstad

LONDON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - A new Singapore-based commodities exchange aims to launch the world's first futures contract for a type of nickel used in the booming electric vehicles (EV) sector by the end of this year, an executive said on Thursday.

The Abaxx Commodities Exchange, which is getting its final regulatory approvals in Singapore, plans to launch nickel sulphate futures, the first such contract globally, Dan McElduff, president of strategy and development, told Reuters.

The exchange, owned by Canadian-listed Abaxx Technologies Inc, also plans to launch futures in liquefied natural gas (LNG) and carbon.

"It's unquestionable that this market needs more and better price discovery and the best way to do that is with a physically-settled futures contract," he said.

"Our focus in starting was to not battle out with big exchange groups in their core products but to focus on emerging markets and we classify nickel sulphate as an emerging market."

The existing nickel futures contracts on the London Metal Exchange (LME) and the Shanghai Futures Exchange both trade in Class 1 refined nickel.

Nickel sulphate is a form of nickel used in EV batteries, a sector which is growing in importance.

Instead of having a network of warehouses to store and deliver physical metal like the LME, the new Abaxx nickel contract would facilitate delivery from seller to buyer, Abaxx Chief Economist David Greely said.

Abaxx said it had consulted with 21 firms before coming up with its nickel contract, including automakers, mining companies, brokers and trading firms. It declined to identify them due to confidentiality clauses.

While stainless steel currently accounts for about two-thirds of nickel use, batteries are due to account for 40% of demand by 2030 from 15% today, according to UBS.

Volumes in the benchmark nickel contract on the LME, the world's biggest venue for industrial metals trading, have slid following a crisis in March last year when the exchange suspended trading after a chaotic surge in prices.

Part of the reason for the disorderly prices on the LME last year was that the bulk of nickel produced globally has shifted to lower grade types such as nickel pig iron, which cannot be delivered on the LME.

In March, the 146-year-old LME launched sweeping measures to revive its flagging nickel contract and said it would work with China's Qianhai Mercantile Exchange (QME) to launch trading in lower nickel grades.

Both the LME and QME are owned by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing. (Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Susan Fenton)