Russia’s Top Gold Buyer Bets on Precious Metals as Virus Rages

VTB Bank PJSC, Russia’s second-biggest lender, is betting on gold and other precious metals to boost profits this year as investors flock to havens amid the global pandemic.

The bank is prioritizing physical gold trading, as well as lending to mining companies and deals with their shares, because they are one of the few sectors to benefit from Covid-19, First Deputy Chairman Yuri Soloviev said in an interview.

Gold prices — which reached a record in August — and precious metals like palladium and platinum should remain supported on expectations that central banks will pump more money into the global economy to stoke growth, Soloviev said. Demand for havens have kept gold exchange-traded fund holdings near an all-time high.

In 2020 alone, the bank’s profit from gold trading exceeded the previous three years combined.

VTB Capital became Russia’s biggest bullion buyer after the country’s central bankstopped purchasing the metal earlier this year as prices soared. The lender held 59.5 tons (1.9 million ounces) of gold as of Oct. 1, according toKommersant newspaper.

Last week, the bank announced a plan to start the first Russian ETF backed by physical gold.

“Russia is a great place to do that because the country naturally has a lot of gold reserves,” Alex Metherell, co-head of global banking at VTB Capital, said in a separate interview.

As a rule, VTB’s physical gold reserves don’t exceed two to three months’ worth of the volume of its bullion trading.

The bank is also considering expanding into the diamond market as global stimulus measures prompts investors to seek alternative havens.

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