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Divisible gold 'Colombia' can easily be broken into one gram pieces and used as payment in emergency
Private investors in Switzerland, Austria and Germany are lining up to buy gold bars the size of a credit card that can easily be broken into one gram pieces and used as payment in an emergency.
Now Swiss refinery Valcambi, a unit of U.S. mining giant Newmont, wants to bring its "CombiBar" to market in the United States and build up its sales presence India - the world's largest consumer of gold where the precious metal has long served as a parallel currency.
Investors worried that inflation and financial market turmoil will wipe out the value of their cash have poured money into gold over the past decade. Prices have gained almost 500 percent since 2001 compared to a 12 percent increase in MSCI's world equity index.
Sales of gold bars and coins were worth almost $77 billion in 2011, up from just $3.5 billion in 2002, according to data from the World Gold Council. Almost $77 billion in 2011, up from just $3.5 billion in 2002, according to data from the World Gold Council.
The rich are buying standard bars or have deposits of phsyical gold. People that have less money are buying up to 100 grams," said Michael Mesaric, CEO of Valcambi "But for many people a pure investment product is no longer enough. They want to be able to do something with the precious metal."
Mesaric said the advantage of the "CombiBar" - which has been dubbed a "chocolate bar" because pieces can be easily broken off by hand into one gram squares - is that it can be easily transported and costs less than buying 50 one gram bars. "The produce can also be used as an alternative method of payment," he said.
Valcambi is building a sales network in India and plans to launch the CombiBar on the U.S. market next year. In Japan, it wants to focus on CombiBars made of platinum and palladium.
"Above all, it's people aged between 40 and 70 that are investing in gold bars and coins," said Mesaric. "They've heard tales from their parents about wars and crises devaluing money
Other customers buy gold for security reasons.
"Demand is rising every week," Habluetzel said. "Particularly in Germany, people buying gold fear that the euro will break apart or that banks will run into problems."
The CombiBar is particularly popular among grandparents who want to give their grandchildren a strip of gold rather than a coin, said Andreas Habluetzel head of the Swiss business of Degussa, a gold trading company.