Firms struggle after gold exchange closure

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The recent closure of all gold trading floors in Vietnam will not have a great impact on commercial banks, but for other struggling companies, it means new business paths or a complete shutdown.

Most gold trading floors operated by commercial banks said they would simply shut down the business completely, and not offer any other service to investors.

Nguyen Duc Thai Han, director of Asia Commercial Bank's gold exchange, said the company does not have any immediate plan to launch a new alternative investment service.

ACB opened the first gold trading floor in Vietnam in May 2007. At first the floor had just nine traders - large banks and gold trading companies.

The bank then expanded its service to individual investors. The move boosted trading volumes sharply and encouraged the establishment of more trading floors.

Investors preferred trading gold at the exchanges since they only needed to pay around 7 percent of the purchase price and could leverage themselves easily using loans.

The State Bank of Vietnam on December 31 announced a decision to close the 20 gold exchanges in the country by the end of March. It said the closure was necessary to eliminate risks posed to the national financial system.

Staff members at gold trading floors have been looking for new jobs, mostly with stock companies, ever since the closure decision was announced by the central bank. However, without experience and knowledge of the stock market, many of them have not been lucky enough to find employment.

Transition

Dao Hong Chau, deputy general director of Ho Chi Minh City-based Eximbank, said most local banks will quit doing gold business completely. His bank will lease out its premises and sell equipment used by the gold exchange floor, he said.

Meanwhile, Sacombank plans to transfer the location of its gold exchange to one of its subsidiaries while Sacombank Jewelry Company will continue trading in bullion as usual.

For gold trading floors that are not under the management of a commercial bank, the transition to new services is much tougher.

The Vietnam Gold Business, for instance, has offered new products including allowing investors to trade in physical gold, but business has been sluggish.

Some other trading floors, including Vang The Gioi (World Gold) and Trieu Phong, now provide consultancy services for stock and real estate investors in order to keep their business running.

A trading floor representative, who wished to be unnamed, said it's unlikely the new services will be as profitable as the gold trading service, but there was no better option at present.

"There are more than 100 stock companies in the country that have a strong staff of consultants. So it will be really difficult for a gold trading company to launch stock services."

He said his company will try to hold out for three more months to see if the number of clients is high enough. "But if the situation reaches a dead end, we will have to return the premises and dissolve the company."

False hope?

But not all companies are thinking about giving up. Some even plan to open gold trading services overseas and expand their business in Vietnam again.

Some managers are hanging on to the hope that the government will allow gold trading floors to operate again. They said the Ho Chi Minh City administration has requested the State Bank of Vietnam to have gold trading activities managed by the city stock exchange.

But according to the central bank, the request was actually made prior to the closure decision and there is no chance the government will relaunch the gold trading floors.

The government has just extended the deadline for banks and companies to close their overseas gold trading accounts to June 30.

More time to close overseas positions would help traders keep the precious metal in line with world gold prices, the government quoted the State Bank of Vietnam as saying.

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