China’s ICBC Standard Bank is set to buy Barclays’ London precious metals vault where $90 billion worth of gold could be stored inside. The deal between Barclays and Chinese state-owned ICBC Standard Bank will boost the latter’s access to London’s gold market, and expand the country’s role in the gold business.
Aside from the China $90 billion London vault purchase and its previous metals storage business, it also includes its state-of-the-art storage facility in London. After the deal, ICBC Standard will become the only Chinese bank to handle a vault in London.
The vault is in a secret location in London, and can store 2,000 metric tons of gold, silver, platinum and palladium. It has been operational since 2012. It is estimated that $90 billion worth of gold could be stored inside.
“This enables us to better execute on our strategy to become one of the largest Chinese banks in the precious metals market. The acquisition of a precious metals vault allows us to expand our services in clearing and processing,” Mark Buncombe, head of commodities at ICBC Standard Bank, said in the statement.
Barclays’ modern vault holds precious metals for pension funds, central banks, sovereign wealth funds and other investors. Most ‘over-the-counter’ gold and silver trading is cleared through the London market, and clearing banks provide services for clients to settle their gold and silver trades, and ultimately have to have access to reserves of physical metal.
London is the world’s largest wholesale over-the-counter gold market by trading volume, with estimated $5 trillion worth of gold trades cleared there every year. The precious metal has been traded in London for over 300 years.
But China dominates in terms of actual physical gold trading. Gold imports to China have surged over 700 percent since 2010, and the country overtook India to become the world’s biggest gold consumer in 2013.
China now consumes about 40 percent of the gold that comes out of the Earth’s ground every year, according to Wells Fargo.
Earlier this year, Barclays Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley said that the bank was assessing different options to exit its precious metals business while vowing to speed up disposals from the bank’s non-core unit, which houses 51 billion pounds ($73 billion) of toxic and otherwise unwanted assets.
ICBC Standard Bank specializes in commodities, fixed income, currencies and equities and was formed in February 2015 when Industrial and Commercial Bank of China bought a 60 percent stake in Standard Bank’s London-based global markets business.