ABU DHABI // A machine that dispenses gold was unveiled at the Emirates Palace hotel yesterday. At the unveiling, the machine's promoter successfully withdrew a one-ounce gold bar after several tries with Dh500 notes. The machine, called Gold To Go, dropped down a black box that contained the gold bar, further encased in a plastic box.
Naturally, Gold To Go is itself covered in 24-carat gold. "A gold machine should be made of gold," said Thomas Geissler, the chief executive of Ex Oriente Lux AG. "This is now at a hotel made out of gold. It is the perfect place." For the UAE market, a special 1-ounce bar is being offered alongside 1, 5, and 10 grams of gold. Six coins of differing weights come engraved with a maple leaf, kangaroo and Krugerrand, symbols of the gold-producing nations Canada, Australia and South Africa.
After the eight-week launch period, gold bars purchased from the machine will be engraved on one side with the Emirates Palace logo. "It brings gold to the public," Mr Geissler said. "It demystifies it." He said the German-made ATM is the first of its kind in the world. So who will be forking out hundreds of dirhams for bits of gold?Investors and tourists are the target audience for Gold To Go. "Souvenirs are a good reason for it," Mr Geissler said.
"But it is also a private investment. Gold is still one of the most sustainable forms of investment." Khalid al Foulathi, 23, a senior analyst with Mubadala, was one of the first customers at the machine. He spent Dh760 buying a five-gram gold bar as a souvenir. "I am really excited to see it come down to a consumer level," he said. "It is a high-risk investment but in the long term, it is worth it."
The idea of a gold vending machine emerged around two years ago when Ex Oriente Lux launched as an online site and was looking for creative ways to market itself. The company started work on the machine 15 months ago and it was first displayed for one day at Frankfurt Airport last year. The idea to approach the Emirates Palace came in 2008, when Mr Geissler stayed at the hotel. "Our policy is to go only where there already is security," he said. "And the country - this is a rising country with stable politics."
The machine is armed with various security measures, including anti-money laundering software. The outer layer that supports the gold casing is made of stainless steel and 4 cms of molybdenum steel. It weighs 500 kgs. "The machine guards itself. You need to have military explosives to blow it up," Mr Geissler boasted. If the machine fails or there is a glitch, it will automatically shut down. "People make mistakes, machines make mistakes," Mr Geissler said. "The machine will shut off at the hint of a mistake but there is also a money-back guarantee for 10 days if for any reason one is not satisfied."
He added that under the return or exchange policy in place, customers would get the equivalent price of gold for the day. The fluctuating price of gold will be reflected in the pricing of the gold. A website that updates the price of gold every 10 seconds will transmit the information to the ATM, which will update its rates every 10 minutes. The gold for the machine arrived in the UAE eight weeks ago through a special courier service.
For it to be replenished, the same process will be followed as one taken to stock cash in ATMs: armoured trucks will arrive with the stash. There is a premium on the price of gold bought from the machine, said Mr Geissler. For an ounce of gold, one pays a two per cent premium. Mr Geissler touted the gold as a canny purchase for wives whose husbands are not with them. "When you travel and go back to your husband, instead of buying 50 bottles of perfumes, you can show him that you bought some gold," Mr Geissler said.
"He will like it better because you have made a smart choice. A gold purchase." email@example.com