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Azeri State Oil Fund Vows No About-Face Buying Gold After Rout

Azerbaijan’s State Oil Fund, known as Sofaz, will look past the biggest drop in gold prices since 1983 and continue investing in the precious metal, Executive Secretary Shahmar Movsumov said.

“Investing in gold was a strategic decision to diversify holdings,” Movsumov told reporters today in Baku, the Azeri capital. “We have no plans to profit by selling it.”

Gold, which rallied for the past 12 years in the longest gain in at least nine decades, plunged into a bear market on April 12 on speculation central banks in Europe may sell holdings to raise funds and as investors sold bullion-backed exchange-traded products. With $34.3 billion in assets on April 1, equivalent to almost 50 percent of the Azeri economy, Sofaz targets keeping 5 percent of the stockpile in the precious metal to diversify its portfolio.

Sofaz, established in 1999 to manage the Caspian Sea nation’s income from the sale of oil and natural gas, started investing in gold in February 2012. The fund bought 18.4 metric tons by the end of the first quarter and said it plans to increase the holdings to 30 tons by the year-end. Sofaz’s assets grew 0.6 percent in the first quarter from the end of last year.

Gold for immediate delivery dropped 0.4 percent to $1,461.38 an ounce by 10:06 a.m. in London. Bullion for delivery in June fell 0.1 percent to $1,460.70 on the Comex in New York. Investors cut assets in gold-backed exchange-traded products to 2,294.5 metric tons yesterday, the lowest level since October 2011, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

Property Investments

Sofaz is also planning to invest $1 billion in real estate this year, with a focus on Asian markets, Movsumov said.

“While the economic decline still continues around the world, Asia is the only place that’s growing,” he said.

The fund started investing in real estate in December as it bought an office complex in London’s West End for 177 million pounds ($273 million). It also bought a retail property in Paris for 135 million euros ($176 million) and a shopping and business center in Moscow for $133 million.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zulfugar Agayev in Baku at zagayev@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net

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