02 March 2010

Is the Sprott Physical Gold Trust in the Market Trying to Buy 10 Tonnes of Gold?

Something is powering the spot price of gold higher the past few days. Are the Chinese or some other entity claiming the 191.3 tonnes of IMF gold again?

Perhaps relatedly, Sprott Asset Management is involved with a new physical gold bullion trust now trading in the States with the ticker symbol "PHYS."

The IPO for the fund was last Friday 26 February, with a reported 40 million shares outstanding at 10$Cndn. There is no hard news yet on how much of the IPO was held by underwriters. In fact, most of the news on it is a bit dated.

Here is their website for the Sprott Physical Gold Trust, and the link to their NAV financials. Here is a link to the prospectus. This is a link to the stocks' *indicative value* which appears to be its NAV which they use in their premium calculation from their website.

As you can see, there is still some key information missing. The cash assets less expenses of the trust are not yet listed. I have not seen a detailed release on the results of the IPO yet. And more importantly, the trust lists only 13,686 ounces of gold owned, with a market value of approximately US$15 million.

According to the prospectus, the fund will store its gold in Canada, is established in Ontario and is under that jurisdiction, but will be calculating its NAV in US$. It appears to be a trust where price tracks their NAV, and not an ETF which tracks the price of some external instrument like an stock index or spot commodity prices.

The implication is that they will not be selling and buying bullion in relation to market fluctuations as actively as an ETF pegged to spot for example. So the examination of premiums and discounts to NAV will be an issue.

If the trust has sold all its units listed as outstanding, they are in a cash position of approximately $390 million. Are the underwriters still holding any of this inventory? Their prospectus commits them to holding 97% of their assets in gold bars. No certificates or derivatives. And they are only listing $15 million in current gold assets.

Nine out of ten Americans might notice that the Sprott trust needs to buy about 10 tonnes of gold, the size of most small central bank purchases, if they have not negotiated and secured delivery already. According to the Prospectus, the trust does not traffic in paper certificates and derivatives, but in good bullion only.

I am more familiar with trusts and funds taking an incremental approach in their bullion purchases, and the negotiation for delivery before the units are sold. I am not sure what the case is here. It obviously is worth watching. Spot gold has risen quite a bit since last Friday. There is not enough data to suggest a correlation. However, if the entire IPO was placed, and the current gold holdings on the web site are accurate, they need to acquire almost 10 tonnes of quality physical bullion in a market reported to be tight in deliverable quality supply.

And the purchase is large enough so that we ougbt to be able to see an inventory drawdown somewhere. I have heard the buying will be done in London, and not at the Comex. The last purchases of this size were supplied by the IMF directly.

Above and beyond the short term interest in potential physical gold buying pressure, the Trust has some promising innovations in terms of holdings and transparency as compared to some other similar funds.

What I found personally appealing, subject to additional detail, is the ability for individual unit holders to redeem their shares for delivery in as little as one bar of London bullion, at the NAV but subject to delivery fees. This will obviously have its appeal for those who wish to add bullion for retirement accounts, with an eye to taking physical delivery at some point without incurring storage fees which can be significant over time.

I will leave the detailed analysis of this trust to more capable people who specialize in analyzing ETFs and Trusts. I have to admit that the IPO completely escaped my attention, although I did know it was coming some months ago. I had read enough then to know that it met some of my personal needs, based on my holdings and age. I find it more suitable than GLD for example, which seems to be a speculative trading vehicle. I prefer the Trusts like CEF and GTU for some things, and the redemption policy of PHYS seemed to be advantageous even compared to them. But more details are required.

As always perform your own due diligence and if needed discuss your investments with a qualified investment advisor.

Disclosure: I bought some units yesterday despite not feeling comfortable yet about being able to calculate the NAV for myself, and not having some of the details regarding redemptions and the status of their holdings and the IPO. It was some months ago that I read the prospectus. The NAV was indicated yesterday at 9.49 by the company on their site from Friday, which was less than 2 percent premium at yesterday's market price, which is advantageous and more than reasonable for my purposes.