INTERVIEW-Swiss refiner Metalor to join new China gold exchange

* Metalor to join new exchange as founding member -chairman

* Exchange seen as another step in opening up China market

* Company has explored IPO, nothing planned for now

SINGAPORE, June 24 (Reuters) - Precious metals refiner Metalor Technologies SA will join the upcoming international bullion exchange in Shanghai, the Swiss company’s chairman said, in a boost for China as it tries to open up its market to foreign players.

Private-equity controlled Metalor is one of the first companies to confirm participation in the new exchange, which will be launched by the state-backed Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) in the city’s pilot free trade zone later this year.

“We are interested in actively participating in the Chinese market,” Chairman Scott Morrison told Reuters in an interview ahead of an industry conference in Singapore.

“We are joining the new exchange in the free trade zone as a founding member.”

China - the top gold consumer and producer - has approached foreign banks and producers to participate in a global gold exchange in Shanghai, sources told Reuters last month, as it seeks a greater influence over pricing of the metal.

SGE has asked bullion banks such as HSBC, Standard Bank, Standard Chartered and Bank of Nova Scotia to take part in the global trading platform, the sources said.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group has said it is seeking a role in the exchange.

Currently, foreign banks and entities have limited opportunities to participate in the local market. China is slowly opening up the market, and last year granted gold-import licenses to two foreign banks for the first time.

“China will have a bigger say in pricing of the metal in their domestic market, but because of structural limitations in the marketplace now and in the foreseeable future, they cannot immediately influence global prices,” Morrison said.

“It’s still not a market comparable to Hong Kong, Zurich or New York but the new exchange is a step in that direction.”


Metalor is also expanding in other parts of Asia, with the Neuchatel-based company officially launching its refinery in Singapore this week, adding to existing facilities in Switzerland, the United States, Hong Kong and mainland China.

The 150-tonne refinery is the first ever refinery in Singapore, whose efforts to change the city-state into a precious metals trading hub began in 2012 with the scrapping of sales tax for investment-grade gold.

The company will start silver refining in Singapore before the end of the year, Morrison said.

Metalor is also eyeing acquisitions across all of the company’s businesses, he said.

The company’s majority shareholder is Paris-based private equity fund Astorg Partners.

Morrison, who also owns a stake in the company, said Metalor has explored the idea of an initial public offering (IPO) but is not pursuing the plan actively now.

“We have talked to the Singapore Exchange and the Zurich exchange (about an IPO) but don’t have any active plans currently,” Morrison said. (Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)