Poland’s 50/50 gold buying: 50 tonnes bought over 3 months, but another 50 tonnes to go
Poland’s central bank, Narodowy Bank Polski (NBP), is officially the biggest central bank gold buyer in the second quarter of 2023, having accumulated a massive 48.52 tonnes of monetary gold between April, May and June of this year. This is the first time in nearly 4 years since the Polish central bank last bought gold for its reserves.
This large concentrated buying by the NBP during Q2 also puts the Polish central bank in third place globally for gold buying during the first half of 2023, behind China and Singapore.
As a reminder, China claims to have bought 57.85 tonnes of gold during Q1 2023, and 45.1 tonnes during Q2, for a first half 2023 total of 102.95 tonnes. Singapore claims to have purchased 68.74 tonnes of gold during Q1 2023, and a net 3 tonnes during Q2, for a first half 2023 total of 71.71 tonnes.
Poland world’s largest gold buyer in Q2 2023
This means that Singapore was the largest central bank gold buyer over the 3 month period Q1 2023, with China in second place, and that Poland was the largest central bank gold buyer over the 3 month period Q2 2023, with China in second place. It also means that China was the largest gold buyer over the 6 month period H1 2023, with Singapore in second place and Poland in third place.
In terms of data (using queries from the IMF’s International Financial Statistics (IFS) database), as of the end of March 2023, the Polish central bank held 7.35 mn ozs of gold (228.62 tonnes). The Poles then purchased 14.93 tonnes during April, 19.91 tonnes during May, and another 13.69 tonnes during June, for a three-month purchase total of 48.52 tonnes (1.56 mn ozs). This boosted Poland’s monetary gold reserves to 277.14 tonnes, which now represents 9.4% of Poland’s total reserve assets (FX, Gold and IMF SDRs).
While there has been much written in these pages and across the financial media about China’s and Singapore’s gold buying and the affinity of Asian central banks for physical gold, the presence of Poland’s central bank might at first glance raise some eyebrows given that Poland is firmly part of the superstate European Union.
However, remembering that Poland has it’s own currency (the zloty) and is not beholden to the Eurozone, and that the Polish central bank bought 125.7 tonnes of gold over 2018-2019 (see below), the fact that Poland’s independently minded central bank has returned to substantial gold buying shouldn’t be surprising, especially given that its upcoming gold buying plan (see below) was telegraphed in advance. The only thing slightly puzzling is that the timing of Poland’s new gold purchases is slightly behind the telegraphed ‘schedule’.
50 Tonnes Down, 50 To Go
Given the plans by the Pole central bank (see below), this new gold buying by Poland’s NBP during 2023, so far at nearly 50 tonnes, may be only half-way through, with at least another 50 tonnes of gold purchases to occur over the next few months.
As a recap, Poland only held 23.2 tonnes of gold (746,463 ozs) up until 1998, 721,000 ozs of which was invested with (lent to) LBMA bullion banks. In 1998, the NBP decided to buy another 74.5 tonnes of gold (2.396 mn ozs) using the Bank of England in London, so as to avail of opportunities to lend gold in the London gold lending market. This purchase brought the NBP’s gold holdings up to 97.75 tonnes. See archived NBP brochure here. Around the same time, the NBP purchases another 5.17 tonnes of gold, increasingly it’s total to 102.9 tonnes (nearly all of which was in name at the Bank of England but lent to bullion banks).
Another 20 years passed and then suddenly in 2018, the NBP started buying gold again. Over the 4 month period July to October 2018, the Polish central bank bought 25.7 tonnes of gold, bringing its total to 128.6 tonnes. Then over the 3 month period May to July 2019, the NBP came back to the market, buying a massive additional 100 tonnes of gold using the gold buying services of the London interbank market and the Bank of England.
Coincidentally, or not, 2019 was also the 100th anniversary of the Polish Zloty currency, so the centenary was a fitting year to buy and repatriate 100 tonnes of gold. The NBP even issued a a gold-bar-shaped gold coin to commemorate flying 100 tonnes of gold back to Poland, which you can see here.
These combined gold purchases of 125.7 tonnes during 2018-2019 were only officially announced by the NBP on 5 July 2019 in a press release. At the same time the NBP announced that it would repatriate the 100 tonnes of gold purchase from the Bank of England back to Poland during 2019.
See BullionStar article from 7 July 2019 here: “Poland joins Hungary with Huge Gold Purchase and Repatriation”.
See also BullionStar article from 28 November 2019 “Polish central bank airlifts 8000 gold bars (100 tonnes) from London to Poland”
Initial Plan to Buy 100 Tonnes in 2022?
Some readers may remember that the Polish central bank president, Adam Glapińsk, revealed in 2021 that the NBP planned to buy 100 tonnes of gold during 2022. This was explained in the BullionStar article, published on 8 October 2021, titled “Poland accelerates gold buying: Plans to purchase 100 tonnes during 2022” in which Glapińsk in a 5 October 2021 interview with Polish magazine ‘Strefa Biznesu’, an interview which was even titled “Another 100 tons of gold in 2022”, said that “initially assume that I will propose to buy another 100 tons in 2022.”
The full interchange between the interviewer and Glapińsk was as follows:
“Does this mean that if you are able to continue your mission at the National Bank of Poland as part of your second term in office as the President of the NBP, we can expect more gold purchases?”
“Yes, in order to further increase Poland’s financial security, we will continue the current policy, we will certainly strive to increase our gold resources. However, the scale and pace of purchases will depend, among others on the dynamics of changes in official reserve assets and current market conditions. I initially assume that I will propose to buy another 100 tons in 2022.”
Seven months previously in March 2021, Glapinski gave another interview to Polish magazine Sieci, and on that occasion explained that Poland planned to buy 100 tonnes of gold over coming years. Specifically, Glapinski said:
“Over the course of a few years we want to buy at least another 100 tonnes of gold and keep it in Poland as well.”
But then on 9 February 2022, Glapińsk was back, reiterating during a press conference that the NBP would buy 100 tonnes of gold in 2022:
“Only our own currency gives us the opportunity to conduct our own policy, which we consider to be the best for Poland’s development. We can hoard gold, lots of gold. The increase in gold resources, the fact that we have 230 tons, has an extremely beneficial effect, investors view us differently, we are a reliable partner.”
“I maintain that this year I intend to buy another 100 tons of gold, in a favorable situation, when it will be at the right time and in the right doses."
The NBP president Glapinski is a massive fan of gold and adamant that the Polish central bank will continue accumulating the yellow metal:
“Despite the purchase of significant gold reserves in the recent period, the NBP has not yet said the last word on this matter.
The foreign exchange reserve management strategy adopted by the Management Board of Narodowy Bank Polski in 2020 assumes a further increase in gold resources, and the scale and pace of this process will depend on the dynamics of official reserve assets and market conditions.”
When Glapinski’s plan to buy 100 tonnes of gold in 2022 didn’t look like it was materializing by September 2022, I actually asked the NBP for an explanation:
Hello NBP Press,
Just less than a year ago in October 2021, NBP President Adam Glapiński said that the NBP would be buying an additional 100 tonnes of gold during 2022.
Adam Glapiński – “I initially assume that I will propose to buy another 100 tons in 2022.”
However, as of the end of July 2022 (based on IMF data), there have been no gold purchases by the NBP so far this year.
Would you be able to confirm if the NBP has bought or is going to be buying gold this year, and whether the 100 tonnes target is still on track?
The “Letters, applications, complaints and petition unit” of the NBP in the “Office of the President” promptly replied, but as usual with central banks. they didn’t answer the question, and bizarrely said that they didn’t need my help in acquiring the gold:
In reply to your email, please be informed that on our official website you may find the data on monetary gold, presented in ounces at market prices, on a monthly basis in the xls file information https://www.nbp.pl/homen.aspx?f=/en/statystyka/template.html.
We also kindly inform that based on an extensive experience and in-house expertise accumulated over the years, NBP does not currently seek any advice or support in acquiring gold.
Narodowy Bank Polski, Świętokrzyska 11/21, 00-919 Warszawa, Poland
Central Bank Demand > Supply
But why did the NBP’s plan to buy 100 tonnes of gold during 2022 not materialize? There were plenty of chances from Q2 2022 to Q2 2022 as the gold price ebbed, and after all 2022 was a record year for central bank gold buying.
Perhaps there is a queue of central banks wanting to buy substantial tonnage of gold in the London gold market and the LBMA and Bank of England rations supply to prevent the price shooting up, with central banks having to form a line and waiting their turn. And that Poland having bought 125.7 tonnes of gold during 2018 – 2019 had to go to the back of the line again.
Whatever the explanation, NBP’s 100 tonnes of gold buying is now materializing in 2023, with 48.5 tonnes already complete. Similar to 2019, the NBP is most likely buying its gold in London in the interbank market with the help of the Bank of England. At the current rate of accumulation over April – June 2023, this means that the Polish central bank could buy another 50 tonnes between July 2023 and September 2023.
Similar to 2019, and in line with what Glapinski said that “we want to buy at least another 100 tonnes of gold and keep it in Poland as well”, this additional 100 tonnes of gold will then be repatriated by air from London back to Poland, probably during the last quarter of 2009, possibly starting in October.
That the 100 tonnes of gold which Poland’s NBP purchased in 2019 at the Bank of England was the same 100 tonnes which the NBP then had flown to Poland in 2019 is made clear by statements in the 2019 NBP annual report:
“Seeking to strengthen Poland’s financial security in 2019, the NBP Management Board took the decision to increase NBP’s gold holdings by 100 tons (to 228.6 tons) and to repatriate 100 tons of gold from the Bank of England to NBP vaults in Poland” (NBP annual report 2019 page 14)
‘Highlights of 2019: increasing the NBP gold holdings by 100 tons and repatriation of the newly purchased gold,’ (NBP annual report 2019 page 55)
Last time in 2019 when the Polish central bank bought 100 tonnes of gold in London and repatriated by air it to Poland, the logistics were along the following lines.
- 100 tonnes of gold was bought by the NBP between May and July 2019 and was initially positioned at the Bank of England in London
- The 100 tonnes of gold was then transferred to the G4S gold vault at 291 Abbey Road in Park Royal, West London
- Over 8 nights between September and November 2019, the gold was transported by G4S trucks to London Heathrow and flown to Poland. Each flight flew 1000 gold bars (12.5 tonnes)
- Six of the flights went to Poznań in Poland and two flights went to Warsaw.
- The flights were met by NBP and police security convoys and NBP security trucks and the gold was escorted to the NBP Polish Treasuries in Poznań (Kaliska) and Warsaw (Świętokrzyska).
- About 75 tonnes of gold was delivered to Poznań and the rest to Warsaw
Back in 2019 I had mistakenly assumed that all the gold repatriated by the NBP had been flown to Poland’s capital Warsaw, but have since discovered that 6 of the 8 flights flew to Chopin airport in Poznań and the gold was escorted by security convoys to the NBP Treasury, a fortress type building on Kaliska Street in Poznań.
Details of these flights and convoys of the Polish gold to Poznań, and the Polish gold treasury in Poznań is the subject of the next blog article on this subject. Stay tuned!
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