BEIJING (Reuters) - A court in Southwest China is putting up for sale the entire inventory of the minor metal antimony that was held by the now-defunct Fanya Metal Exchange, as it tries to raise funds to pay back the bourse’s creditors.
The Kunming Intermediate People’s Court said in the auction section of e-commerce platform Taobao that 18,660,763 kg, or around 18,660 tonnes of antimony, a shiny metal used in fire retardants, would be open for bids over a 24-hour period from 10 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) on Aug. 31.
That is the same amount of antimony the Fanya exchange, launched in China’s Yunnan province in 2011 with the express purpose of boosting prices of minor metals, held when it collapsed in 2015, leaving irate investors venting their anger at China’s financial regulators.
The bourse was later taken over by government investigators.
The starting price for the auction has been set at 546.1 million yuan ($78 million), although the notice, dated Aug. 14, put the market value of the stock 25% higher at 682.6 million yuan.
The antimony is currently being stored in state warehouses in neighboring Guangxi, according to the auction page, which had been visited more than 300 times by 0420 GMT on Thursday.
The Kunming court has previously sold indium ingots on the Taobao platform, although it needed two attempts to make a sale. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Fanya also reportedly held 19,228 tonnes of bismuth, 170 tonnes of tellurium and 338 tonnes of selenium.
The auctions are being closely watched by Fanya creditors, owed nearly 40 billion yuan, as well as by minor metals traders, given the huge volumes potentially coming on to the market.
China was the world’s biggest antimony producer in 2018, accounting for more than 70% of global mine output of 140,000 tonnes, according to the USGS.
Chinese spot antimony prices, as assessed by industry data provider Asian Metal, have fallen by more than 26% so far this year to 36,800 yuan a ton.
“Potential sales of some key industrial metals are being blamed for further price weakness in tungsten, antimony and indium,” brokerage SP Angel said in a note on Wednesday.
“Traders are concerned that administrators managing the winding up of the Fanya exchange may start to offload tonnages of the metals into the market.”
The founder of Fanya, Shan Jiuliang, was in March sentenced to 18 years in prison for crimes including embezzlement and had an appeal rejected last month.
($1 = 7.0287 Chinese yuan renminbi)
Reporting by Tom Daly, additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom and David Stanway in SHANGHAI; Editing by Joseph Radford