The world's first yuan-denominated gold exchange-traded fund (ETF) made a weak debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Tuesday, but analysts said demand would likely pick up as investors became more familiar with the product.
The Hang Seng RMB Gold ETF (83168.HK), launched by Hang Seng Bank Ltd (0011.HK), is intended to track the performance of the London gold fixing price in U.S. dollars.
It was flat at midday at 35 yuan (US$5.60), with 30,000 units exchanging hands. Each board lot of the ETF is 100 units.
Spot gold edged lower on the day, tracking a weaker euro, but has gained nearly 10 percent so far this year. It posted a similar gain in 2011.
With a limited range of yuan investment products in the Hong Kong market, Hang Seng Bank said its yuan-denominated gold ETF provided a new choice for the city's investors to get into gold by using their yuan holdings.
"It will take time for investors to understand the product before they jump in," said Hou Xinqiang, a gold analyst at Jinrui Futures in China.
"Besides, Hong Kong has a lot of gold investment products and the market is already very savvy, so investors will probably take some time to assess its selling point."
China has been stepping up efforts to boost the use of its currency in cross-border trades and Hong Kong is fast becoming a major offshore yuan trading centre.
Betting on growing appetite for offshore investments in the yuan as well as the Chinese's cultural affinity towards gold, banks and exchanges in Asia are working feverishly to launch more bullion-related investment products priced in yuan.
The Shanghai Gold Exchange is working on rolling out a gold-ETF, while the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange has also said that it would soon roll out yuan-denominated gold and silver futures contracts.
China's Lion Fund Management, which last year launched the country's first gold fund, also raised $500 million to invest in gold-backed ETFs overseas.
Hong Kong has been at the forefront of the yuan's internationalization efforts with yuan deposits in the city reaching 588.5 billion yuan ($93.46 billion) in December last year, according to data from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority data showed last month.
($1 = 6.2971 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by Fayen Wong in SHANGHAI; Editing by Kim Coghill)