China’s ICBC buys giant London gold vault from Barclays

China’s ICBC Standard Bank aid on Monday it is buying a precious-metals vault from Barclays PLC’s, one of Europe’s largest vaults, in the latest move by the Chinese bank to increase its role in the precious metal’s market.

The agreement, which is due to close in July according to Bloomberg, will make ICBC Standard the only Chinese bank to operate a vault in London, a strategic market when it comes to trading and storing precious metals.

The vault, which holds up to 2,000 tonnes in gold, silver, platinum and palladium, will make it easier for ICBC to sells its services to western-based clients.

China accounts for more than a quarter of global bullion demand, but gold trading was until recently largely run out of western banks and in markets such as London and New York.

The vault, which holds up to 2,000 tonnes in gold, silver, platinum and palladium, will make it easier for ICBC to sells its services to western-based clients given that it now has a location to store metals that is closer to them.

The facility, located at a secret location in London, was opened by Barclays in 2012 and took more than a year to build.

No financial terms were announced.

Last week, ICBC joined the London clearing system for gold, silver, platinum and palladium, which is managed by London Precious Metals Clearing Limited (LPMCL).

As many investment bank, Barclays has been moving out of the precious metals market in recent years. In January, the lender confirmed rumours that it was exiting metal trading, following similar decisions by several high-profile banks and trading houses, including Deutsche Bank AG and Switzerland-based Gunvor Group.

ICBC, which boasts more than four million business clients and services 410 million retail customers, paid $765 million for control of the London global markets unit of Johannesburg-based Standard Bank in 2014 to expand into the bullion and forex trade. In 2008 ICBC bought 20% of the 150-year old Standard Bank group, Africa's largest bank, for $5.4 billion.