Gold ATM offers capital one-upmanship

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am

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In times of economic crisis, cash is king. But in times of stagflation - which occurs when the economy is not growing but prices are - gold is the emperor.

The arrival at the weekend of the first gold-bullion vending machine in Beijing seems to bear this out.

Soaring prices, the uncertain economic outlook and a lack of investment tools have triggered a global buying spree for the precious metal - prices hit a record high above US$1,920 an ounce earlier this month. And China is no different, especially amid record inflation and record low interest rates for bank deposits.

The first of the new machines was installed in the Wangfujing area, Beijing's premier shopping district, on Saturday. Made by German gold-bullion dealer TG Gold-Super-Markt, it dispenses 10 kinds of gold coins and bars of various sizes and weights. A 2.5kg bar sells for about one million yuan (HK$1.22 million) at current market prices, which are updated on the machine every 10 minutes.

Customers can use cash - 50-yuan and 100-yuan notes - or bank cards to buy gold products, with the purchase resembling a transaction at an ATM.

More machines will be installed in the capital, but only in luxurious private clubs and private banks - for security reasons.

The German firm launched the world's first 'gold ATM' at Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace Hotel in May last year. The machines have since spread to several countries, including Spain, Britain and the United States.