Russia could consider investing part of National Wealth Fund in gold

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia could consider investing part of its National Wealth Fund in gold, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said, adding that he sees investment in the precious metal as more sustainable in the long-term than in financial assets.

Russia is one of the world’s largest gold producers, while its central bank has been the main buyer of its metal in recent years when - partly due to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014 - the central bank was reducing the share of U.S. dollar assets in its reserves.

For now, the finance ministry proposes that the National Wealth Fund’s new investment structure mirrors the foreign exchanges reserves structure of the central bank and excludes gold, Siluanov told reporters on Tuesday.

The finance ministry’s National Wealth Fund accumulates revenues from oil exports and was initially designed to support the pension system. It was worth $124 billion as of Dec. 1.

The central bank’s gold reserves stood at 72.7 million troy ounces, worth $105.9 billion, as of December 1.

“There is a discussion on whether to invest the fund’s money in gold and precious metals. There are a lot of supporters and opponents,” Siluanov said.

Russian gold miners usually sell their metal to Russian commercial banks, which then re-sell it to the central bank. Russia's Polyus PLZL.MM and Polymetal POLYP.L, along with Canada's Kinross K.TO, are the top producers.

“The Finance Ministry does not propose (the fund) investing in the precious metals, though one could think and consider this,” Siluanov said. “My point of view is that gold might well be present when investing reserve money.”

In November, his ministry proposed spending 1 trillion roubles ($16 billion) from the National Wealth Fund to support infrastructure projects and exports between 2020 and 2022, as it tries to boost economic growth.

The government will be able to use money from the Fund once its liquid assets exceed 7% of gross domestic product, something the finance ministry expects to happen in 2020.

Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; writing by Polina Devitt; editing by Alex Richardson