Local Banks Strike it Rich with Gold Coins
India Times / The Economic Times
Thursday, October 13, 2005
MUMBAI -- As the price of gold scales an almost two-decade high, local banks are moving in to take advantage. Their target this time is the gold coin retail segment. Corporation Bank, HDFC Bank, and IndusInd Bank are now jostling for a slice of the pie in this segment of the market.
A small gold coin weighing just 2 gm is being retailed for close to Rs 1,500 by some of the market players keeping in mind the upcoming Diwali and Eid festivals. The banking regulator has now ensured that customers have the choice of buying these coins from either banks or traditional retail gold outlets like Zaveri Bazar in Mumbai.
The latest entrants to the business of hawking gold coins are following in the footsteps of two seasoned players in the market - ICICI Bank and MMTC. And there are many others who are waiting in the wings with similar products lined up.
However, with less than a month to go for this year's festival, latecomers may well miss out on cashing in on a good business opportunity. It is not just the small gift purchases from retail customers that banks are eyeing. Many corporates like HPCL, BPCL and Nabard figure among their list of bulk customers.
Banks, unlike retail gold outlets, offer customers the comfort of proper assaying certificates and hallmarking. Though big retail shops often provide those details on request, several others are yet to follow the global practice. For Corporation Bank, the entry into the gold coins segment is like pouring old wine into a new bottle. It was the first public sector bank to import gold in India after RBI sanction in '97.
"Currently 10,000 gold coins have been imported and all coins have goddess Laxmi's picture," said K Balasubramanyam, senior manager of the bank. Each coin weighs 8 gms and comes with a purity certificate. Almost five years ago, Corporation Bank tried its luck with coins, but the scheme ended abruptly.
IndusInd Bank has also launched similar coins. Coins come in 5-10 gm range with fineness of 99.9%. Any customer can pick up the coins by paying cash up to Rs 50,000 at one time. More than 50 branches of the bank have been designated as sellers of such coins.
Like other, HDFC Bank also sells 24 karat and 99.99% purity gold. All such coins are imported from the PAMP Refinery in Switzerland. However, unlike the other sellers, HDFC does not sell gold in coin shapes. Its 5 gm gold product is available in bars.
With rising gold prices, business has been brisk for banks. Many banks had purchased gold when the prices were low compared to the current price of $475 a troy ounce. However, for the customer, what counts is the day's prevailing price. The sale of gold coins by banks is open to non-bank customers too.
Like banks, PSU MMTC is also in the fray. It offers gold coins ranging from a tiny 2 gm to 20 gm. SD Shindhe, manager of MMTC, said that customers include individuals, retail and corporate entities. It also sells silver coins of 25 gms or more. According to reports, MMTC is targeting to earn close to Rs 2 crore in the festival season.