China's first gold ETFs raise $261 million, below expectations
SHANGHAI, July 19 (Reuters) - China's first two newly launched gold exchange-traded funds have raised a total of 1.6 billion yuan ($261 million) in their initial funding round, coming in below expectations due to sliding gold prices and a recent credit-crunch scare.
The launch of China's first gold-backed ETFs is being closely watched to judge local investors' appetite for paper gold in a country where physical bullion is in great demand for weddings, gift-giving and as an investment tool.
China - the second biggest consumer of gold jewellery, bars and coins after India - approved the ETFs last month, giving the go-ahead to HuaAn Asset Management and Guotai Asset Management.
Unfamiliarity with the product and the credit crunch in China caused the lower-than-expected funding, Guotai's gold-fund manager Yang Xuwei told Reuters.
HuaAn raised 1.21 billion yuan, while Guotai raised about 410 million yuan in the first round of funding that closed last Friday, the two companies announced on their websites.
HuaAn had told Reuters in June that it expected to raise between 2 billion yuan and 3 billion yuan.
Gold-backed ETFs are a relatively new concept in Asia, where the demand for physical bullion is unmatched worldwide.
The ETFs were launched at a time when gold has lost nearly a quarter of its value so far this year after 12 straight annual gains, with investors selling down holdings in gold-backed ETFs in other markets.
Outflows from gold ETFs have amounted to $28.2 billion year-to-date, according to data from BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager.
Holdings in SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold ETF, are near four-year lows. ($1 = 6.1413 Chinese yuan)
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Ruby Lian; Editing by Tom Hogue)