Dubai woes seen as China's opportunity to buy gold, oil


By Lucy Hornby and Langi Chiang
via ABC News, New York
Sunday, November 29, 2009

BEIJING -- Dubai's debt crisis could be China's opportunity to snap up gold and oil assets, a senior Chinese official said in remarks published on Monday.

No Chinese banks have yet reported exposure to debt from Dubai World, a flagship firm that last week said it was seeking to delay debt payments by six months. Some Chinese real estate and construction firms have limited exposure to projects in the emirate, state television reported this weekend.

China's $2.27 trillion in foreign exchange reserves are mostly parked in U.S. treasuries, despite calls from some in China to invest the reserves in oil and other natural resources that the fast-growing Chinese economy will need in the future.

While the impact of the Dubai crisis on the global economy and on China was not known yet, it would last a while at the very least, Ji Xiaonan, who chairs the supervisory board for big state-owned companies under the State Council's state assets commission, told the Economic Information Daily.

"That could give China a buying opportunity to put some forex reserves into gold or oil reserves," Ji was quoted as saying by the paper, which is widely read by Chinese officials.

Although China recently raised its national gold holdings, it did so by buying domestically produced gold to help soak up unsold output. It has not yet shown any interest in buying from international gold markets.

"If the gold price comes down for a while, we might take the opportunity to buy a bit," the paper, run by Xinhua news agency, quoted economist Li Yining as saying.

Li added that China must gradually diversify the asset and currency composition of its foreign exchange reserves. He recommended buying more land, mines and equity stakes in companies.

Wu Nianlu, a professor at the central bank's graduate school, expressed concern about the safety of China's non-bond holdings.

"Strictly speaking, almost half of our country's foreign exchange reserve is not stable in value and is of high risk," Wu was quoted as saying by the same paper.

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