China, already the world’s second largest bullion consumer, has installed the country’s first gold vending machine in a busy shopping district in Beijing, state media said on Sunday. Shoppers in the popular Wangfujing Street can insert cash or use a bank card to withdraw gold bars or coins of various weights based on market prices, the People’s Daily said on its website. Each withdrawal is capped at 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) or one million yuan (about $156,500) worth of gold, the report said.
Gold vending machines already exist in Britain, the United States, the Middle East and Europe. The machine was launched Saturday by the Beijing Agricultural Commercial Bank and a gold trading company, the report said. They plan to install an unspecified number of machines in secure locations such as gold shops and upmarket private clubs.
Gold is often used as a hedge against inflation and the machines could prove popular among Chinese consumers looking for a convenient way to safeguard their cash amid rising prices. Chinese consumer demand for gold soared 27 percent year-on-year to 579.5 tonnes in 2010, according to the World Gold Council. India, the world’s top consumer, saw a 66 percent increase to 963.1 tonnes.