November 20, 2017 / 2:48 PM / a month ago

Russia's VTB Capital aims to double gold sales to China in 2018

MOSCOW, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Russia’s VTB Capital, one of Russia’s biggest gold traders, aims to more than double sales of the precious metal to China next year, its global commodities chief said, after import curbs forced it to cut its target for this year.

The investment banking unit of Russia’s No.2 lender VTB , VTB Capital also trades grains, iron ore, oil and oil products and commodities head Atanas Djumaliev said it is looking at expanding to trade platinum group metals and non-ferrous metals such as zinc and cobalt, to help diversify VTB group’s revenues away from banking.

Russia’s largest gold-trading banks have been trying to increase their presence in Asian markets, especially since a stand-off between Russia and the West over Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine has cooled demand for Russian gold in European trading hubs since 2014.

VTB Capital sold 23.3 tonnes of gold to India so far this year, up almost 86 percent compared to the whole of 2016, Djumaliev told Reuters in a recent interview. It has also sold 6.2 tonnes of gold to China via the Shanghai Gold Exchange, or a 170 percent increase from the whole of 2016, and sees that rising to about 9 tonnes by the end of 2017.

Next year, it aims to sell 20 tonnes of gold to China and 35 tonnes to India, he said.

Djumaliev said gold sales targets for China were adjusted for this year “due to various restrictions introduced by the government.”

China has curbed gold imports in a move to limit yuan currency outflows. In September, its net gold imports via main conduit Hong Kong fell about 8.5 percent, month-on-month, to the lowest level in over three years.

VTB has also seen its gold loans in Turkey soar 170 percent this year to 6.2 tonnes so far, as the Turkish authorities urged people to invest in gold, Djumaliev said.

DIVERSIFYING

VTB Capital is the biggest Russian bank to trade gold, ahead of Sberbank, Russia’s top bank.

While Russia is the world’s third-largest gold producer, growth potential in gold trading in the domestic market is limited as there are no large consumers other than the central bank, one of the world’s largest holders of bullion.

As VTB Capital looks to expand into other metals, Djumaliev said it had recently hired Gregory Frith from Standard Bank as a global head of precious metals trading based in Hong Kong.

The bank aims eventually to develop platinum and palladium trading.

“We haven’t previously focused as much on the platinum group, but now we see great potential in this segment and opportunities to expand our global business,” Djumaliev said, without giving a timeframe.

VTB has already bought 55 tonnes of gold on the Russian market this year and plans to increase volumes to 65-70 tonnes in total in 2017 and to 70-80 tonnes next year, Djumaliev said.

Its silver purchases totalled 155 tonnes so far this year and are expected to rise to 170−180 tonnes in total in 2017. In 2018, they will fall to 160 tonnes, Djumaliev said.

The bank also plans to sell 300 tonnes of silver to India this year, he said. (Reporting by Diana Asonova and Katya Golubkova; Editing by Polina Devitt and Susan Fenton)

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