Back in June 2013, when Deutsche Bank opened a gold vault in Singapore which could hold up to metric 200 tons, the German bank was euphoric about the prospects for storing physical gold: "Gold has traditionally been stored in London, Zurich and New York, but there is a serious shift in dynamics going on as the global financial crisis continues to evolve," Mark Smallwood, Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management's head of wealth planning in the Asia-Pacific region, told The Wall Street Journal.
Mark was correct and thanks to the ongoing decline in gold prices, Chinese and Indian demand for the metal, the physical metal that is, not its various paper manifestations, has risen to record levels. Alas, one thing Mark did not know is that in early 2014, a German regulator would reveal that "precious metals manipulation was worse than the Libor scandal" and as a result the largest German bank (and largest bank in the world by notional derivative exposure) - which is currently being probed for gold-rigging - would quietly liquidate its entire physical precious metals trading group.
Which means that Deutsche Bank's Singapore gold vault, barely a year old, is about to go on sale.
But while one can debate when the brand new storage facility will see a "for sale" sign attached to the main vault door, one thing is clear: Deutsche Bank's massive, and even newer, gold vault in London is already looking for offers. According to Reuters, Deutsche Bank is "open to offers for its London-based gold vault following the closure of its physical precious metals business."
"If the right offer came along, then the bank would sell the London vault," one source close to the situation said.
One source familiar with the matter said Deutsche is still assessing whether to shift its vaulting business from its investment banking arm (CB&S) to its Global Transaction Banking (GTB) business, which includes custodial services. Deutsche declined to comment on the status of its vaulting operation.
The bank's London gold vault only became operational in June this year, more than two years after launching the project. It can store some 1,500 tonnes of gold and was built and managed by British security services company G4S.
As Reuters observes, with other banks withdrawing from the commodities business to cut costs and reduce their regulatory burden, it could be difficult for Deutsche Bank to find buyers amongst its nearest peers. However, one possible buyer is Chinese bank ICBC, which is trying to build a presence in London and the sources said it was a likely candidate.
The Chinese bank will finalise the acquisition of a 60 percent stake in Standard Bank's London-based global markets unit at the end of January 2015.
"It would make perfect sense for them to enter the vaulting business and I'm sure they are interested," one of the sources said.
Perhaps. Or perhaps Reuters' source is a little too excited once again. Recall it was Reuters' reporter Clara Denina who back in February, when Deutsche Bank was looking to dump its seat at the London gold fix, reported that "ICBC, is in prime position to buy the Deutsche seat. "Standard Bank is a shoo-in for the fixing seat - they want it, and it would be acceptable to the other members," a senior gold market source told Reuters. "It's just whether they can agree a fee.""
Considering that no sale materialized, perhaps China is not that eager to pick up Deutsche Bank's manipulated gold pieces after all.
But perhaps other buyers will step up. So it is for their benefit that we once again disclose the "secret" location of the Deutsche Bank vault, which as revealed in the G4S building application, is located in the Park Royal complex, and specifically at the 291 Abbey Road, London NW10 7SA location.
The reinforced street-side entry to the vault complex can be seen on the Google streetview map below:
Curious what the starting asking price may be? According to Clay Street property consultants, the 291 Abbey road property was marketed in November 2011, and the 1.89 acre site attracted a broad range of interest including institutional investors, property companies, developers and owner occupiers.
Securing 15 bids all at in excess of the asking price the site was sold in April 2012 to an owner occupier for £4,500,000 reflecting a price of £2.38m per acre. Considering the firesale nature of the transaction, the current owner will be more than happy to eat all improvement and additional construction fee incurred since the purchase.
So you want to be the proud owner of a massive "secret" vault in London, one which was supposed to be used by Deutsche Bank? Then just make sure you have £4,500,000 ready. O.B.O.