Diamonds, and gold, are Malca-Amit's best friends

Growing demand for diamonds and gold from China and other parts of Asia prompted 50-year-old firm to move its headquarters to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 11:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 April, 2014, 5:50pm

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but they have also been good to Malca-Amit.

For decades, the company has been providing storage and secure transportation for diamonds, gold, jewellery and artworks.

A growing demand for diamonds and gold from China and other parts of Asia led the firm, founded in Israel in 1963, to move its global headquarters from London to Hong Kong in 2008.

It operates the city's largest gold storage facility at Hong Kong International Airport.

Our clients consider [gold] a good way to pass on a family fortune

"Hong Kong is an ideal place as a global headquarters, as it is convenient to transport diamonds, gold and other precious metals to China and other Asian cities," said Joshua Rotbart, general manager of the company's Malca-Amit Precious Metals unit. "It has a sound financial system, stable political situation and good transportation infrastructure.

"Asia is definitely the world's fastest-growing area, as we see people move valuable assets from the West to the East. We believe the trend will keep on growing in the coming years."

Rotbart said there was a 200 per cent year-on-year increase last year in the total volume of precious metals shipped from the United States, Britain and Switzerland to Hong Kong and Singapore.

Malca-Amit's gold vault in Hong Kong opened in 2012 and can hold 1,000 tonnes of gold - about 22 per cent of the amount of bullion reportedly in the US government's depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The firm's vault can also hold assets such as diamonds, jewellery, artworks, stamps and other collections for banks and wealthy individuals.

Gold demand in China has increased in recent years as mainland mothers buy gold for their daughters' dowry in line with local wedding traditions. Many wealthy individuals also like to buy physical gold as a way to preserve their wealth.

"Gold is an international commodity product; people can trade gold bars anywhere in the world. It can also be passed on from generation to generation," Rotbart said.

He recalled a client whose father left him a safety deposit box key before he died. The client opened the box and found it full of gold coins.

"Our clients consider it a good way to pass on a family fortune," Rotbart said.

Malca-Amit also opened a gold vault at the Singapore Freeport, adjacent to Changi airport, in 2010. Another of its gold vaults opened in Shanghai's free-trade zone last year.

The firm is now looking at setting up secure storage facilities in Macau and Beijing.

China overtook India as the world's largest gold importer last year, according to the World Gold Council. The council said in a report this week that China's gold demand is expected to rise a further 25 per cent to at least 1,350 tonnes by 2017 as the number of wealthy people grows.

Named after its co-founders, Raphael Amit and Malca Tykocinski, Malca-Amit was set up to process export documents. It entered the diamond security logistics business in the mid-1970s, when Israel banned ordinary shipping for diamonds after a rash of thefts.

In 1979, the firm opened an office in Hong Kong, a hub for diamond trading in Asia.

Malca-Amit may not be a household name in the city, but it is well known to the city's gold traders and jewellery makers, to whom it provides gold storage and transportation services.

"Whenever the economy is good and jewellery retailers are expanding their shops, it is our busiest time, as they need us to handle the security logistics for their gold and diamonds between the factories and their shops," Rotbart said.

The firm recently expanded its clientele to high-net-worth individuals worldwide.

"Besides banks and jewellery manufacturers, we found that some individuals also like to invest in physical gold and diamonds as a way to preserve their wealth," Rotbart said.

"They also like to store their collections in our gold vaults, and they can ask us to deliver the gold from our vault to their office via a mobile safety deposit box. In addition, we can also source the gold for them and find buyers when needed."

Rotbart, an Israeli with a business development and legal background, said the firm needs to deal with changing rules and regulations, as the 30 countries in which it operates have different requirements.

"Another challenge is security," he said. "We always need to make sure we are ahead of the criminals. Insurance is another important factor, so we have arranged insurance with Lloyd's."