TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

PART I 1
Item 1. Business 1
Trust Objective 1
Overview of the Gold Industry 2
Operation of the Gold Bullion Market 4
Secondary Market Trading 8
Valuation of Gold and Computation of Net Asset Value 8
Trust Expenses 9
Deposit of Gold; Issuance of Shares 9
Withdrawal of Gold; Redemption of Shares 10
Creation and Redemption Transaction Fee 11
The Sponsor 11
The Trustee 12
The Custodian 13
Inspection of Gold 13
Description of the Shares 13
Custody of the Trust’s Gold 14
United States Federal Income Tax Consequences 15
ERISA and Related Considerations 18
Item 1A. Risk Factors 19
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments 28
Item 2. Properties 28
Item 3. Legal Proceedings 28
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosure 28
   
PART II 29

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities 

29
Item 6. Selected Financial Data 31
Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations 31
Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk 36
Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data 36
Item 9. Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure 37
Item 9A. Controls and Procedures 37
Item 9B. Other Information 39
   
PART III 41
Item 10. Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance 41
Item 11. Executive Compensation 41
Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters 41
Item 13. Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence 42
Item 14. Principal Accounting Fees and Services 43
   
PART IV 44
Item  15. Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedule 44
Item 16. Form 10K Summary 45

 

 

 

 

PART I

 

Item 1. Business

 

The purpose of the Aberdeen Standard Gold ETF Trust (the “Trust”) is to own gold transferred to the Trust in exchange for shares issued by the Trust (“Shares”). Each Share represents a fractional undivided beneficial interest in and ownership of the Trust. The assets of the Trust consist solely of gold bullion. The Trust was formed on September 1, 2009 when an initial deposit of gold was made in exchange for the issuance of two Baskets (a “Basket” consists of 100,000 Shares).

 

The sponsor of the Trust is Aberdeen Standard Investments ETFs Sponsor LLC (the “Sponsor”). The trustee of the Trust is The Bank of New York Mellon (the “Trustee”) and the custodian is JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A., London Branch (the “Custodian”).

 

The Trust’s Shares at redeemable value increased from $1,195,896,624 at December 31, 2019 to $2,652,511,503 at December 31, 2020, the Trust’s fiscal year end. Outstanding Shares in the Trust increased from 82,000,000 Shares at December 31, 2019 to 146,200,000 Shares at December 31, 2020.

 

The Trust is not managed like a corporation or an active investment vehicle. The Trust has no directors, officers or employees. It does not engage in any activities designed to obtain a profit from or to improve the losses caused by changes in the price of gold. The gold held by the Trust will only be delivered to pay the remuneration due to the Sponsor (the “Sponsor’s Fee”), distributed to Authorized Participants (defined below) in connection with the redemption of Baskets or sold (1) on an as-needed basis to pay Trust expenses not assumed by the Sponsor, (2) in the event the Trust terminates and liquidates its assets, or (3) as otherwise required by law or regulation.

 

The Trust is not registered as an investment company under the Investment Company Act of 1940 and is not required to register under such act. The Trust does not and will not hold or trade in commodities futures contracts, “commodity interests” or any other instruments regulated by the Commodity Exchange Act (the “CEA”), as administered by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) and the National Futures Association (“NFA”). The Trust is not a commodity pool for purposes of the CEA and the Shares are not “commodity interests,” and neither the Sponsor nor the Trustee is subject to regulation as a commodity pool operator or a commodity trading advisor in connection with the Shares. The Trust has no fixed termination date.

 

The Sponsor of the registrant maintains an Internet website at www.aberdeenstandardetfs.us through which the registrant’s annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, are made available free of charge as soon as reasonably practicable after they have been filed or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”). Additional information regarding the Trust may also be found on the SEC’s EDGAR database at www.sec.gov.

 

Trust Objective

 

The investment objective of the Trust is for the Shares to reflect the performance of the price of gold bullion, less the expenses of the Trust’s operations. The Shares are intended to constitute a simple and cost-effective means of making an investment similar to an investment in physical gold. An investment in physical gold requires expensive and sometimes complicated arrangements in connection with the assay, transportation, warehousing and insurance of the metal. Traditionally, such expense and complications have resulted in investments in physical gold being efficient only in amounts beyond the reach of many investors.

 

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The Shares are intended to provide institutional and retail investors with a simple and cost-efficient means, with minimal credit risk, of gaining investment benefits similar to those of holding gold bullion. The Shares offer an investment that:

 

● Is Easily Accessible. The Shares trade on the NYSE Arca and provide institutional and retail investors with indirect access to the gold bullion market. The Shares are bought and sold on the NYSE Arca like any other exchange-listed securities. The close of the NYSE Arca trading session is 4:00 p.m. New York time.

 

● Is Relatively Cost Effective. The Sponsor expects that, for many investors, costs associated with buying and selling the Shares in the secondary market and the payment of the Trust’s ongoing expenses will be lower than the costs associated with buying and selling gold bullion and storing and insuring gold bullion in a traditional allocated gold account.

 

● Has Minimal Credit Risk. The Shares represent an interest in physical bullion owned by the Trust (other than an amount held in unallocated form which is not sufficient to make up a whole bar or which is held temporarily to effect a creation or redemption of Shares). Physical Bullion of the Trust in the Custodian’s possession is not subject to borrowing arrangements with third parties. Other than the gold temporarily being held in an unallocated gold account with the Custodian, the physical bullion of the Trust is not subject to counterparty or credit risks. See“Risk Factors—Gold held in the Trust’s unallocated gold account and any Authorized Participant’s unallocated gold account is not segregated from the Custodian’s assets...” This contrasts with most other financial products that gain exposure to bullion through the use of derivatives that are subject to counterparty and credit risks.

 

Investing in the Shares does not insulate the investor from certain risks, including price volatility. See “Risk Factors.”

 

Overview of the Gold Industry

 

In this annual report, the term “ounces” refers to fine troy ounces.

 

Market Participants

 

The participants in the world gold market may be classified in the following sectors: the mining and producer sector, the banking sector, the official sector, the investment sector, and the manufacturing sector. A brief description of each follows.

 

Mining and Producer Sector

 

This group includes mining companies that specialize in gold and silver production, mining companies that produce gold as a by-product of other production (such as a copper or silver producer), scrap merchants and recyclers.

 

Banking Sector

 

Gold bullion banks provide a variety of services to the gold market and its participants, thereby facilitating interactions between other parties. Services provided by the gold bullion banking community include traditional banking products as well as mine financing, physical gold purchases and sales, hedging and risk management, inventory management for industrial users and consumers, and gold deposit and loan instruments.

 

The Official Sector

 

The official sector encompasses the activities of the various central banking operations of gold-holding countries. According to statistics released by the World Gold Council, central banks are estimated to hold approximately 35,000 tonnes (when used in this annual report “tonne” refers to one metric tonne, which is equivalent to 1,000 kilograms or 32,151 troy ounces) of gold reserves, or approximately 20% of existing above-ground stocks. From 2009 to 2019, the European Central Bank and other central banks of Europe operated under a series of four Central Bank Gold Agreements (“CBGA”).  The CBGA limited the amount of gold that these banks were allowed to sell for the duration of each agreement, helping to stabilize the gold market.  The CBGA had the desired effect, and the gold market has become more balanced, eliminating the need for a formal agreement going forward.

 

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The Investment Sector

 

This sector includes the investment and trading activities of both professional and private investors and speculators. These participants range from large hedge and mutual funds to day-traders on futures exchanges, and retail-level coin collectors.

 

The Manufacturing Sector

 

The fabrication and manufacturing sector represents all the commercial and industrial users of gold for whom gold is a daily part of their business. The jewelry industry is a large user of gold. Other industrial users of gold include the electronics and dental industries.

 

World Gold Supply and Demand 2010-2019 (in tonnes)

 

The following table sets forth a summary of the world gold supply and demand for the period from 2010 to 2019 and is based on information reported by the World Gold Council.

 

(tonnes)   2010   2011   2012   2013   2014   2015   2016   2017   2018   2019
Supply                                        
Mine production   2,771   2,868   2,882   3,076   3,180   3,222   3,251   3,247   3,332   3,530
Scrap   1,743   1,698   1,700   1,303   1,159   1,180   1,306   1,210   1,178   1,281
Net Hedging Supply   -106   18   -40   -39   108   21   32   -41   8   -0.7
Total Supply   4,408   4,584   4,542   4,340   4,447   4,423   4,589   4,416   4,518   4,810
                                         
Demand                                        
Jewelry Fabrication   2,083   2,099   2,066   2,726   2,559   2,464   1,953   2,214   2,129   2,122
Industrial Fabrication   480   470   432   428   411   376   366   380   391   326
Electronics   346   342   310   306   297   267   264   277   288   262
Dental & Medical   48   43   39   36   34   32   30   29   29   13.9
Other Industrial   86   85   84   85   80   76   71   73   74   49.8
Net Official Sector   77   457   544   409   466   443   269   366   536   668
Retail Investment   1,263   1,617   1,407   1,871   1,162   1,160   1,043   1,028   1,097   871
Bars   946   1,248   1,057   1,444   886   875   786   780   800   579.6
Coins   317   369   350   426   276   284   257   248   297   292
Physical Demand   3,903   4,643   4,449   5,434   4,598   4,443   3,631   3,988   4,153   3,987
                                         
Physical Surplus/Deficit   505   -59   93   -1,094   -151   -20   958   428   365   823
                                         
ETF Inventory Build   384   189   279   -879   -155   -117   539   177   59   398
Exchange Inventory Build   54   -6   -10   -98   1   -48   86    -   -21   -
Net Balance   67   -242   -176   -117   3   145   333   251   327   425

 

Source: World Gold Council Gold Survey 2020

 

The following are some of the main characteristics of the gold market illustrated by the table:

 

One factor which separates gold from other precious metals is that there are large above-ground stocks which can be quickly mobilized. As a result of gold’s liquidity, gold often acts more like a currency than a commodity.

 

Over the past ten years, (new) mine production of gold has experienced a modest rise of an average of 2.75% per annum. Of the three sources of supply, mine production accounts for 73% in 2019. Recycled gold volumes have ranged from 1,159 tonnes to 1,743 tonnes over the past 10 years.

 

On the demand side, jewelry is clearly the greatest source of demand, representing 53% of demand in 2019. Industrial demand has fluctuated between 8% and 14% of total demand over the past 10 years. Exchange traded product inventory build had seen strong growth through 2012, followed by outflows in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as the price of gold fell by a cumulative 30% between 2013 and 2015. Exchange traded product inventory build has been positive each year from 2016 to 2019. During the 2013 price crash, retail coin and bar demand rose to a 10-year high as retail investors, especially from China, were enticed by the falling prices. Retail coin and bar demand has since tapered off. Investor inflows into ETFs returned in 2016 amid heightened market uncertainty and continued to see 398 tonnes of inflows in 2019.

 

Historical Chart of the Price of Gold

 

The price of gold is volatile and fluctuations are expected to have a direct impact on the value of the Shares. However, movements in the price of gold in the past are not a reliable indicator of future movements. Movements may be influenced by various factors, including announcements from central banks regarding a country’s reserve gold holdings, agreements among central banks, political uncertainties around the world, and economic concerns.

 

The following chart illustrates the movements in the price of an ounce of gold in U.S. Dollars from December 31, 2010 to December 31, 2020:

 

 

 

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The gold price tends to rise during periods of low real interest rates and high monetary expansion, as they are often associated with currency debasement and systemic financial failures. The gold price peaked at US$2,067 per ounce in August 2020 as the uncertainties regarding the pandemic, and U.S. presidential election drove prices higher. 2020 proved to be a stellar year for gold rising 18.0%. Additionally, the trends of 3 years of investor outflows in global ETFs and net negative investor sentiment in gold futures positioning reversed in 2016 and continued through 2020. Low real interest rates, tepid economic growth, and concerns regarding the recovery of the pandemic were key tailwinds for gold that sparked a return of investor interest.

 

Operation of the Gold Bullion Market

 

The global trade in gold consists of Over-the-Counter (“OTC”) transactions in spot, forwards, and options and other derivatives, together with exchange-traded futures and options.

 

Global Over-The-Counter Market
 

The OTC market trades on a 24-hour per day continuous basis and accounts for most global gold trading.

 

Market makers, as well as others in the OTC market, trade with each other and with their clients on a principal-to-principal basis. All risks and issues of credit are between the parties directly involved in the transaction. Market makers include the market-making members of the London Bullion Market Association (“LBMA”), the trade association that acts as the coordinator for activities conducted on behalf of its members and other participants in the London bullion market. The twelve market-making members of the LBMA are: BNP Paribas, Citibank N.A., HSBC, Goldman Sachs International, ICBC Standard Bank Plc, JPMorgan Chase Bank, The Bank of Nova Scotia, Merrill Lynch International, Morgan Stanley & Co. International Ltd., Standard Chartered Bank, Toronto-Dominion Bank and UBS AG. The OTC market provides a relatively flexible market in terms of quotes, price, size, destinations for delivery and other factors. Bullion dealers customize transactions to meet clients’ requirements. The OTC market has no formal structure and no open-outcry meeting place.

 

The main centers of the OTC market are London, Zurich and New York. Mining companies, central banks, manufacturers of jewelry and industrial products, together with investors and speculators, tend to transact their business through one of these market centers. Centers such as Dubai and several cities in the Far East also transact substantial OTC market business, typically involving jewelry and small gold bars (1 kilogram or less) and will hedge their exposure by selling into one of these main OTC centers. Bullion dealers have offices around the world and most of the world’s major bullion dealers are either members or associate members of the LBMA. Of the twelve market-making members of the LBMA, six offer clearing services. There are a further 74 full members, plus a number of associate members around the world. The number of LBMA market-making, clearing and full members reported in this annual report are correct as of the date of this report. These numbers may change from time to time as new members are added and existing members drop out.

 

In the OTC market, the standard size of gold trades between market makers ranges between 5,000 and 10,000 ounces. Bid-offer spreads are typically 50 US cents per ounce. Certain dealers are willing to offer clients competitive prices for much larger volumes, including trades over 100,000 ounces, although this will vary according to the dealer, the client and market conditions, as transaction costs in the OTC market are negotiable between the parties and therefore vary widely. Cost indicators can be obtained from various information service providers as well as dealers.

 

Liquidity in the OTC market can vary from time to time during the course of the 24-hour trading day. Fluctuations in liquidity are reflected in adjustments to dealing spreads—the differential between a dealer’s “buy” and “sell” prices. The period of greatest liquidity in the gold market generally occurs at the time of day when trading in the European time zones overlaps with trading in the United States, which is when OTC market trading in London, New York and other centers coincides with futures and options trading on the Commodity Exchange, Inc. (“COMEX”), a designated contract market within the CME Group. This period lasts for approximately four hours each New York business day morning.

 

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The London Gold Bullion Market

 

Although the market for physical gold is distributed globally, most OTC market trades are cleared through London. In addition to coordinating market activities, the LBMA acts as the principal point of contact between the market and its regulators. A primary function of the LBMA is its involvement in the promotion of refining standards by maintenance of the “Good Delivery List,” which is a list of LBMA accredited refiners of gold. The LBMA also coordinates market clearing and vaulting, promotes good trading practices and develops standard documentation.

 

The terms “loco London” gold and “loco Zurich” gold refer to gold physically held in London and Zurich, respectively, that meets the specifications for weight, dimensions, fineness (or purity), identifying marks (including the assay stamp of a LBMA acceptable refiner) and appearance set forth in “The Good Delivery Rules for Gold and Silver Bars” published by the LBMA. Gold bars meeting these requirements are described in this annual report from time to time as “London Good Delivery Bars.” The unit of trade in London is the troy ounce, whose gram conversion is: 1,000 grams equals 32.1507465 troy ounces and 1 troy ounce equals 31.1034768 grams. A London Good Delivery Bar is acceptable for delivery in settlement of a transaction on the OTC market. Typically referred to as 400-ounce bars, a London Good Delivery Bar must contain between 350 and 430 fine troy ounces of gold, with a minimum fineness (or purity) of 995 parts per 1,000 (99.5%), be of good appearance and be easy to handle and stack. The fine gold content of a gold bar is calculated by multiplying the gross weight of the bar (expressed in units of 0.025 troy ounces) by the fineness of the bar. A London Good Delivery Bar must also bear the stamp of one of the refiners who are on the LBMA approved list. Unless otherwise specified, the gold spot price always refers to that of a London Good Delivery Bar. Business is generally conducted over the phone and through electronic dealing systems.

 

On March 20, 2015, ICE Benchmark Administration (“IBA”) began administering the operation of an “equilibrium auction,” which is an electronic, tradable and auditable, over-the-counter auction market with the ability to settle trades in US Dollars (“USD”), Euros or British Pounds for LBMA-authorized participating gold bullion banks or market makers (“gold participants”) that establishes a reference gold price for that day’s trading. IBA’s equilibrium auction is the gold valuation replacement selected by the LBMA for the London gold fix previously determined by the London Gold Market Fixing Ltd. that was discontinued on March 19, 2015. IBA’s equilibrium auction, like the previous gold fixing process, establishes and publishes fixed prices for troy ounces of gold twice each London trading day during fixing sessions beginning at 10:30 a.m. London time (the “LBMA AM Gold Price”) and 3:00 p.m. London time (the “LBMA PM Gold Price”).

 

Daily during London trading hours the LBMA AM Gold Price and the LBMA PM Gold Price each provide reference gold prices for that day’s trading. Many long-term contracts will be priced on either the basis of the LBMA AM Gold Price or the LBMA PM Gold Price, and market participants will usually refer to one or the other of these prices when looking for a basis for valuations. The LBMA AM Gold Price and the LBMA PM Gold Price, determined according to the methodologies of IBA and disseminated electronically by IBA to selected major market data vendors, such as Refinitiv and Bloomberg, are widely used benchmarks for daily gold prices and are quoted by various financial information sources as the London gold fix was previously. The Trust values its gold on the basis of the LBMA PM Gold Price.

 

The LBMA PM Gold Price is the result of an “equilibrium auction” because it establishes a price for a troy ounce of gold that clears the maximum amount of bids and offers for gold entered by order-submitting gold participants each day. The opening bid and subsequent bid prices are generated by an algorithm based method, and each auction is actively supervised by IBA staff. There are currently 15 direct gold participants (Bank of China, Bank of Communications, Citibank N.A., Coins ‘N Things, Goldman Sachs, HSBC Bank USA NA, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), StoneX Financial Ltd., Jane Street Global Trading, LLC, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. London Branch, Koch Supply and Trading LP, Marex Financial Limited, Morgan Stanley, Standard Chartered Bank and Toronto-Dominion Bank), and IBA uses ICE’s front-end system, WebICE, as the technology platform that allows direct participants as well as sponsored clients to manage their orders in the auction in real time via their own screens.

 

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The IBA auction process begins with a notice of an auction round issued to gold participants before the commencement of the auction round stating a gold price in U.S. Dollars, at which the auction round will be conducted. An auction round lasts 30 seconds. Gold participants electronically place bid and offer orders at the round’s stated price and indicate whether the orders are for their own account or for the account of clients. Aggregate bid and offer volume will be shown live on WebICE, providing a level playing field for all participants.

 

At the end of the auction round, the IBA system evaluates the equilibrium of the bid and offer orders submitted. If bid and offer orders indicate an imbalance outside of acceptable tolerances established for the IBA system (normally 10,000 oz) (e.g., too many purchase orders submitted compared to sell orders or vice versa), the auction chairman calculates a new auction round price principally based on the volume weighting of bid and offer orders submitted in the immediately completed auction round. For instance, if the order imbalance indicates that purchase orders (bids) outweigh sales orders (offers) then a new auction round price will be issued that will be increased over that used in the prior auction round. Likewise, the new auction round price will be decreased from the prior round’s price if offers outweigh bids. To clear the imbalance, the IBA system then issues another notice of auction round to gold participants at the newly calculated price. During this next 30 second auction round, gold participants again submit orders, and after it ends, the IBA system evaluates for order imbalances. If order imbalances persist, a new auction price is calculated and a further auction round will occur. This auction round process continues until an equilibrium within specified tolerances is determined to exist. Once the IBA system determines that orders are in equilibrium within system tolerances, the auction process ends and the equilibrium auction round price becomes the LBMA PM Gold Price.

 

The LBMA PM Gold Price and all bid and offer order information for all auction rounds become publicly available electronically via IBA instantly after the conclusion of the equilibrium auction. Since April 1, 2015, the LBMA PM Gold Price has been regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) in the United Kingdom (“UK”). IBA also has an Oversight Committee, made up of market participants, industry bodies, direct participant representatives, infrastructure providers and IBA. The Oversight Committee allows the LBMA to continue to have significant involvement in the oversight of the auction process, including, among other matters, changes to the methodology and accreditation of direct participants. Additionally, IBA watches over the price discovery process for the LBMA PM Gold Price and ensures that it meets the International Organization of Securities Commission’s (IOSCO) Principles for Financial Benchmarks.

 

The LBMA PM Gold Price is widely viewed as a full and fair representation of all or material market interest at the conclusion of the equilibrium auction. IBA’s LBMA PM Gold Price electronic auction methodology is similar to the non-electronic process previously used to establish the London gold fix where the London gold fix process adjusted the gold price up or down until all the buy and sell orders are matched, at which time the price was declared fixed. Nevertheless, the LBMA PM Gold Price has several advantages over the previous London gold fix. The LBMA PM Gold Price auction process is fully transparent in real time to the gold participants and, at the close of each equilibrium auction, to the general public.

 

The LBMA PM Gold Price auction process is also fully auditable by third parties since an audit trail exists from the time of each notice of an auction round. Moreover, the LBMA PM Gold Price’s audit trail and active, real time surveillance of the auction process by IBA as well as FCA’s oversight of IBA, deters manipulative and abusive conduct in establishing each day’s LBMA PM Gold Price.

 

Since March 20, 2015, the Sponsor determined that the London gold fix, which ceased to be published as of March 19, 2015, could no longer serve as a basis for valuing gold bullion received upon purchase of the Trust’s Shares, delivered upon redemption of the Trust’s Shares and otherwise held by the Trust on a daily basis, and that the LBMA PM Gold Price is an appropriate alternative for determining the value of the Trust’s gold each trading day. The Sponsor also determined that the LBMA PM Gold Price fairly represents the commercial value of gold bullion held by the Trust and the “Benchmark Price” (as defined in Trust Agreement) as of any day is the LBMA PM Gold Price for such day.

 

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The Zurich Bullion Market

 

After London, the second principal center for spot or physical gold trading is Zurich. For eight hours a day, trading occurs simultaneously in London and Zurich—with Zurich normally opening and closing an hour earlier than London. During these hours, Zurich closely rivals London in its influence over the spot price because of the importance of the three major Swiss banks—Credit Suisse, Swiss Bank Corporation, and Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS)—in the physical gold market. Each of these banks has long maintained its own refinery, often taking physical delivery of gold and processing it for other regional markets. The loco Zurich bullion specification is the same as for the London bullion market, which allows for gold physically located in Zurich to be quoted loco London and vice versa.

 

Futures Exchanges

 

The most significant gold futures exchanges are the COMEX, a designated contract market within the CME Group, and the Tokyo Commodity Exchange (“TOCOM”). The COMEX is the largest exchange in the world for trading precious metals futures and options and has been trading gold since 1974. The TOCOM has been trading gold since 1982. Trading on these exchanges is based on fixed delivery dates and transaction sizes for the futures and options contracts traded. Trading costs are negotiable. As a matter of practice, only a small percentage of the futures market turnover ever comes to physical delivery of the gold represented by the contracts traded. Both exchanges permit trading on margin. Margin trading can add to the speculative risk involved given the potential for margin calls if the price moves against the contract holder. The COMEX trades gold futures almost continuously (with one short break in the evening) through its CME Globex electronic trading system and clears through its central clearing system. On June 6, 2003, TOCOM adopted a similar clearing system. In each case, the exchange acts as a counterparty for each member for clearing purposes.

 

Other Exchanges

 

There are other gold exchange markets, such as the Istanbul Gold Exchange (trading gold since 1995), the Shanghai Gold Exchange (trading gold since 2002), the Hong Kong Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society (trading gold since 1918) and the Singapore Mercantile Exchange (trading gold since 2010).

 

Market Regulation

 

The global gold markets are overseen and regulated by both governmental and self-regulatory organizations. In addition, certain trade associations have established rules and protocols for market practices and participants. In the United Kingdom, responsibility for the regulation of the financial market participants, including the major participating members of the LBMA, falls under the authority of the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) as provided by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (“FSM Act”). Under this act, all UK-based banks, together with other investment firms, are subject to a range of requirements, including fitness and properness, capital adequacy, liquidity, and systems and controls.

 

The FCA is responsible for regulating investment products, including derivatives, and those who deal in investment products. Regulation of spot, commercial forwards, and deposits of gold not covered by the FSM Act is provided for by The London Code of Conduct for Non-Investment Products, which was established by market participants in conjunction with the Bank of England.

 

The TOCOM has authority to perform financial and operational surveillance on its members’ trading activities, scrutinize positions held by members and large-scale customers, and monitor the price movements of futures markets by comparing them with cash and other derivative markets’ prices. To act as a Futures Commission Merchant Broker on the TOCOM, a broker must obtain a license from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (“METI”), the regulatory authority that oversees the operations of the TOCOM.

 

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The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) regulates trading in commodity contracts, such as futures, options and swaps. In addition, under the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936 (“CEA”), the CFTC has jurisdiction to prosecute manipulation and fraud in any commodity (including precious metals) traded in interstate commerce as spot as well as deliverable forwards. The CFTC is the exclusive regulator of U.S. commodity exchanges and clearing houses.

 

Secondary Market Trading

 

While the Trust’s investment objective is for the Shares to reflect the performance of gold bullion, less the expenses of the Trust, the Shares may trade in the secondary market on the NYSE Arca at prices that are lower or higher relative to their net asset value (the value of the Trust’s assets less its liabilities (“NAV”)) per Share. The amount of the discount or premium in the trading price relative to the NAV per Share may be influenced by non-concurrent trading hours between the NYSE Arca, COMEX and the London and Zurich gold markets. While the Shares trade on the NYSE Arca until 4:00 PM New York time, liquidity in the global gold market is reduced after the close of the COMEX at 1:30 PM New York time. As a result, during this time, trading spreads, and the resulting premium or discount, on the Shares may widen.

 

Valuation of Gold and Computation of Net Asset Value

 

On each day that the NYSE Arca is open for regular trading, as promptly as practicable after 4:00 p.m. New York time on such day (the “Evaluation Time”), the Trustee evaluates the gold held by the Trust and determines the NAV of the Trust. For the purposes of making these calculations, a business day means any day other than a day when NYSE Arca is closed for regular trading.

 

At the Evaluation Time, the Trustee values the Trust’s gold on the basis of that day’s LBMA PM Gold Price (the USD price for an ounce of gold set by the LBMA-accredited participating bullion banks or market makers in an electronic, tradable and auditable over-the-counter auction operated by IBA at 3:00 p.m. London time, on each London business day and disseminated electronically by IBA to selected major market data vendors, such as Refinitiv and Bloomberg). If no LBMA PM Gold Price is made on such day or has not been announced by the Evaluation Time, the next most recent LBMA PM Gold Price determined prior to the Evaluation Time will be used, unless the Sponsor determines that such price is inappropriate as a basis for evaluation. In the event the Sponsor determines that the LBMA PM Gold Price or such other publicly available price as the Sponsor may deem fairly represents the commercial value of the Trust’s gold is not an appropriate basis for evaluation of the Trust’s gold, it shall identify an alternative basis for such evaluation to be employed by the Trustee. Neither the Trustee nor the Sponsor shall be liable to any person for the determination that the LBMA PM Gold Price or such other publicly available price is not appropriate as a basis for evaluation of the Trust’s gold or for any determination as to the alternative basis for such evaluation provided that such determination is made in good faith.

 

Once the value of the gold has been determined, the Trustee subtracts all estimated accrued but unpaid fees (other than the fees accruing for such day on which the valuation takes place which are computed by reference to the value of the Trust or its assets), expenses and other liabilities of the Trust from the total value of the gold and any other assets of the Trust. The resulting figure is the adjusted net asset value (“ANAV”) of the Trust. The ANAV of the Trust is used to compute the Sponsor’s Fee.

 

All fees accruing for the day on which the valuation takes place which are computed by reference to the value of the Trust or its assets shall be calculated using the ANAV calculated for such day. The Trustee subtracts from the ANAV the amount of accrued fees so computed for such day and the resulting figure is the NAV of the Trust. The Trustee also determines the NAV per Share by dividing the NAV of the Trust by the number of the Shares outstanding as of the close of trading on the NYSE Arca (which includes the net number of any Shares created or redeemed on such evaluation day).

 

The Trustee’s estimation of accrued but unpaid fees, expenses and liabilities are conclusive upon all persons interested in the Trust and no revision or correction in any computation made under the Trust Agreement will be required by reason of any difference in amounts estimated from those actually paid.

 

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Trust Expenses

 

The Trust’s only ordinary recurring expense is the Sponsor’s Fee. In exchange for the Sponsor’s Fee, the Sponsor has agreed to assume the following administrative and marketing expenses incurred by the Trust: the Trustee’s monthly fee and out-of-pocket expenses, the Custodian’s fee and reimbursement of the Custodian’s expenses under the Custody Agreements, Exchange listing fees, SEC registration fees, printing and mailing costs, audit fees and up to $100,000 per annum in legal expenses.

 

Effective December 1, 2018, the Sponsor’s Fee accrues daily at an annualized rate equal to 0.17% of the ANAV of the Trust and is payable monthly in arrears. Prior to December 1, 2018, the Sponsor’s Fee accrued daily at an annualized rate equal to 0.39% of the ANAV of the Trust. The Sponsor’s Fee is paid by delivery of gold to an account maintained by the Custodian for the Sponsor on an unallocated basis. The Sponsor, from time to time, may temporarily waive all or a portion of the Sponsor’s Fee at its discretion for a stated period of time. Presently, the Sponsor does not intend to waive any of its fee.

 

Furthermore, the Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, agree to rebate all or a portion of the Sponsor’s Fee attributable to Shares held by institutional investors subject to minimum shareholding and lock up requirements as determined by the Sponsor to foster stability in the Trust’s asset levels. Any such rebate will be subject to negotiation and written agreement between the Sponsor and the investor on a case by case basis. The Sponsor is under no obligation to provide any rebates of the Sponsor’s Fee. Neither the Trust nor the Trustee will be a party to any Sponsor’s Fee rebate arrangements negotiated by the Sponsor. Any Sponsor’s Fee rebate shall be paid from the funds of the Sponsor and not from the assets of the Trust.

 

The Sponsor’s Fee is paid by delivery of gold to an account maintained by the Custodian for the Sponsor on an unallocated basis, monthly on the first business day of the month in respect of fees payable for the prior month. The delivery is of that number of ounces of gold which equals the daily accrual of the Sponsor’s Fee for such prior month calculated at the LBMA PM Gold Price.

 

The Trustee will, when directed by the Sponsor, and, in the absence of such direction, may, in its discretion, sell gold in such quantity and at such times as may be necessary to permit payment in cash of Trust expenses not assumed by the Sponsor. The Trustee is authorized to sell gold at such times and in the smallest amounts required to permit such payments as they become due, it being the intention to avoid or minimize the Trust’s holdings of assets other than gold. Accordingly, the amount of gold to be sold will vary from time to time depending on the level of the Trust’s expenses and the market price of gold. The Custodian is authorized to purchase from the Trust, at the request of the Trustee, gold needed to cover Trust expenses not assumed by the Sponsor at the price used by the Trustee to determine the value of the gold held by the Trust on the date of the sale.

 

The Sponsor’s Fee for the year ended December 31, 2020 was $3,640,527 (December 31, 2019: $1,680,258; December 31, 2018: $3,567,948).

 

Cash held by the Trustee pending payment of the Trust’s expenses will not bear any interest.

 

Deposit of Gold; Issuance of Shares

 

The Trust creates and redeems Shares from time to time, but only in one or more Baskets  Prior to November 4, 2019, the number of Shares that constituted a Basket was 50,000 Shares. Effective November 4, 2019, the Basket size was increased to 100,000 Shares (the “Basket Size Change”).  Only registered broker-dealers, or other securities market participants not required to register as broker-dealers such as banks or other financial institutions, who (1) are participants in the DTC and (2) have entered into written agreements with the Sponsor and the Trustee (each an “Authorized Participant”) can deposit gold and receive Baskets of Shares in exchange. The creation and redemption of Baskets is only made in exchange for the delivery to the Trust or the distribution by the Trust of the amount of gold represented by the Baskets being created or redeemed, the amount of which is based on the combined NAV of the number of Shares included in the Baskets being created or redeemed determined on the day the order to create or redeem Baskets is properly received.

 

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All gold bullion deposited with the Custodian or for the Custodian by the Zurich Sub-Custodian1 must be of at least a minimum fineness (or purity) of 995 parts per 1,000 (99.5%) and otherwise conform to the rules, regulations practices and customs of the LBMA, including the specifications for a London Good Delivery Bar.

 

Creation and redemption orders are accepted on “business days” the NYSE Arca is open for regular trading. Settlements of such orders requiring receipt or delivery, or confirmation of receipt or delivery, of gold in the United Kingdom, Zurich or another jurisdiction occurs on “business days” when (1) banks in the United Kingdom, Zurich or such other jurisdiction and (2) the London or Zurich gold markets are regularly open for business. If such banks or the London or Zurich gold markets are not open for regular business for a full day, such a day will only be a “business day” for settlement purposes if the settlement procedures can be completed by the end of such day.

 

On any business day, an Authorized Participant may place an order with the Trustee to purchase one or more Baskets. Purchase orders must be placed no later than 3:59:59 p.m. on each business day the NYSE Arca is open for regular trading. A purchase order so received is effective on the date it is received in satisfactory form by the Trustee. By placing a purchase order, an Authorized Participant agrees to deposit gold with the Trust, as described below. Prior to the delivery of Baskets for a purchase order, the Authorized Participant must also have wired to the Trustee the non-refundable transaction fee due for the purchase order (as explained under “Creation and Redemption Transaction Fee” below).

 

An Authorized Participant who places a purchase order is responsible for crediting its Authorized Participant Unallocated Account, either loco London or loco Zurich, with the required gold deposit amount by the second business day in London or Zurich following the purchase order date. Upon receipt of the gold deposit amount, the Custodian, after receiving appropriate instructions from the Authorized Participant and the Trustee, will transfer on the second business day following the purchase order date the gold deposit amount from the Authorized Participant Unallocated Account to the unallocated gold account of the Trust established with the Custodian under the Unallocated Account Agreement between the Trustee and the Custodian (the “Trust Unallocated Account”) and the Trustee will direct the Depository Trust Company (the “DTC”) to credit the number of Baskets ordered to the Authorized Participant’s DTC account. Acting on standing instructions given by the Trustee, the Custodian will transfer the gold deposit amount from the Trust Unallocated Account to the allocated gold account of the Trust established with the Custodian under the Allocated Account Agreement between the Trustee and the Custodian (the “Trust Allocated Account”), by transferring specific gold bars from its inventory or the inventory of the Zurich Sub-Custodian to the Trust Allocated Account. The Trust’s Unallocated Account Agreement and Allocated Account Agreement are referred to collectively as the “Custody Agreements.”

 

Withdrawal of Gold; Redemption of Shares

 

The procedures by which an Authorized Participant can redeem one or more Baskets mirror the procedures for the creation of Baskets. On any business day, an Authorized Participant may place an order with the Trustee to redeem one or more Baskets. Redemption orders must be placed no later than 3:59:59 p.m. on each business day the NYSE Arca is open for regular trading. A redemption order so received is effective on the date it is received in satisfactory form by the Trustee. The redemption procedures allow Authorized Participants to redeem Baskets and do not entitle an individual owner of beneficial interests in the Shares (a “Shareholder”) to redeem any Shares in an amount less than a Basket, or to redeem Baskets other than through an Authorized Participant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1The Zurich Sub-Custodian is any firm selected by the Custodian to hold the Trust’s gold in the Trust Allocated Account (defined below) in the firm’s Zurich vault premises on a segregated basis and whose appointment has been approved by the Sponsor. The Custodian will use reasonable care in selecting any Zurich Sub-Custodian. As of the date of this annual report, the Zurich Sub-Custodian used by the Custodian is UBS AG, named in the Allocated Account Agreement, though the Zurich Sub-Custodian currently does not hold any of the Trust’s gold.

 

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By placing a redemption order, an Authorized Participant agrees to deliver the Baskets to be redeemed through DTC’s book-entry system to the Trust not later than the second business day following the effective date of the redemption order. Prior to the delivery of the redemption distribution for a redemption order, the Authorized Participant must also have wired to the Trustee the non-refundable transaction fee due for the redemption order (as explained under “Creation and Redemption Transaction Fee” below).

 

The redemption distribution from the Trust consists of a credit to the redeeming Authorized Participant’s Authorized Participant Unallocated Account, either loco London or loco Zurich, representing the amount of the gold held by the Trust evidenced by the Shares being redeemed. Fractions of a fine ounce of gold included in the redemption distribution smaller than 0.001 of a fine ounce are disregarded. Redemption distributions are subject to the deduction of any applicable tax or other governmental charges which may be due.

 

Creation and Redemption Transaction Fee

 

To compensate the Trustee for services in processing the creation and redemption of Baskets, an Authorized Participant is required to pay a transaction fee to the Trustee of $500 per order to create or redeem Baskets. An order may include multiple Baskets. The transaction fee may be reduced, increased or otherwise changed by the Trustee with the consent of the Sponsor. The Trustee shall notify DTC of any agreement to change the transaction fee and will not implement any increase in the fee for the redemption of Baskets until 30 days after the date of the notice.

 

The Sponsor

 

The Sponsor is a Delaware limited liability company and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aberdeen Standard Investments Inc. (“ASII”). Aberdeen Standard Investments is a brand of the investment businesses of Standard Life Investments plc, its affiliates and subsidiaries. In the United States, Aberdeen Standard Investments is the marketing name for the following affiliated, registered investment advisers: ASII, Aberdeen Asset Managers Ltd., Aberdeen Standard Investments Australia Ltd., Aberdeen Standard Investments (Asia) Ltd., Aberdeen Capital Management, LLC, Aberdeen Standard Investments ETFs Advisors LLC and Standard Life Investments (Corporate Funds) Ltd.

 

The Sponsor’s office is located at c/o Aberdeen Standard Investments ETFs Sponsor LLC, 712 Fifth Avenue, 49th Floor, New York, NY 10019. Under the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act and the governing documents of the Sponsor, the sole member of the Sponsor, ASII, is not responsible for the debts, obligations and liabilities of the Sponsor solely by reason of being the sole member of the Sponsor.

 

The Sponsor’s Role

 

The Sponsor arranged for the creation of the Trust, the registration of the Shares for their public offering in the United States and the listing of the Shares on the NYSE Arca. The Sponsor has agreed to assume the following administrative and marketing expenses incurred by the Trust: the Trustee’s monthly fee and out-of-pocket expenses, the Custodian’s fee and the reimbursement of the Custodian’s expenses under the Custody Agreements, Exchange listing fees, SEC registration fees, printing and mailing costs, audit fees and up to $100,000 per annum in legal expenses. The Sponsor also paid the costs of the Trust’s organization and the initial sale of the Shares, including the applicable SEC registration fees.

 

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The Sponsor does not exercise day-to-day oversight over the Trustee or the Custodian. The Sponsor may remove the Trustee and appoint a successor Trustee (i) if the Trustee ceases to meet certain objective requirements (including the requirement that it have capital, surplus and undivided profits of at least $150 million), (ii) if, having received written notice of a material breach of its obligations under the Trust Agreement, the Trustee has not cured the breach within 30 days, or (iii) if the Trustee refuses to consent to the implementation of an amendment to the Trust’s initial Internal Control Over Financial Reporting. The Sponsor also has the right to replace the Trustee during the 90 days following any merger, consolidation or conversion in which the Trustee is not the surviving entity or, in its discretion, on the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Trust or on any subsequent third anniversary thereafter. The Sponsor also has the right to approve any new or additional custodian that the Trustee may wish to appoint and any new or additional Zurich Sub-Custodian that the Custodian may wish to appoint.

 

The Sponsor or one of its affiliates or agents (1) develops a marketing plan for the Trust on an ongoing basis, (2) prepares marketing materials regarding the Shares, including the content of the Trust’s website and (3) executes the marketing plan for the Trust.

 

The Trustee

 

The Bank of New York Mellon, a banking corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York with trust powers (“BNYM”), serves as the Trustee. BNYM has a trust office at 2 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, New York 11217. BNYM is subject to supervision by the New York State Financial Services Department and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Information regarding creation and redemption Basket composition, NAV of the Trust, transaction fees and the names of the parties that have each executed an Authorized Participant Agreement may be obtained from BNYM. A copy of the Trust Agreement is available for inspection at BNYM’s trust office identified above. Under the Trust Agreement, the Trustee is required to have capital, surplus and undivided profits of at least $150 million. As of December 31, 2020, the Trustee was in compliance with these conditions.

 

The Trustee’s Role

 

The Trustee is generally responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Trust, including keeping the Trust’s operational records. The Trustee’s principal responsibilities include (1) transferring the Trust’s gold as needed to pay the Sponsor’s Fee in gold (gold transfers are expected to occur approximately monthly in the ordinary course), (2) valuing the Trust’s gold and calculating the NAV of the Trust and the NAV per Share, (3) receiving and processing orders from Authorized Participants to create and redeem Baskets and coordinating the processing of such orders with the Custodian and DTC, (4) selling the Trust’s gold as needed to pay any extraordinary Trust expenses that are not assumed by the Sponsor, (5) when appropriate, making distributions of cash or other property to Shareholders, and (6) receiving and reviewing reports from or on the Custodian’s custody of and transactions in the Trust’s gold. The Trustee shall, with respect to directing the Custodian, act in accordance with the instructions of the Sponsor. If the Custodian resigns, the Trustee shall appoint an additional or replacement Custodian selected by the Sponsor. The Trustee intends to regularly communicate with the Sponsor to monitor the overall performance of the Trust. The Trustee does not monitor the performance of the Custodian, the Zurich Sub-Custodian, or any other sub-custodian other than to review the reports provided by the Custodian pursuant to the Custody Agreements. The Trustee, along with the Sponsor, will liaise with the Trust’s legal, accounting and other professional service providers as needed. The Trustee will assist and support the Sponsor with the preparation of all periodic reports required to be filed with the SEC on behalf of the Trust.

 

The Trustee’s monthly fees and out-of-pocket expenses are paid by the Sponsor.

 

Affiliates of the Trustee may from time to time act as Authorized Participants or purchase or sell gold or Shares for their own account, as agent for their customers and for accounts over which they exercise investment discretion. Affiliates of the Trustee are subject to the same transaction fee as other Authorized Participants.

 

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The Custodian

 

JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“JPMorgan”) serves as the Custodian of the Trust’s gold. JPMorgan is a national banking association organized under the laws of the United States of America. JPMorgan is subject to supervision by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. JPMorgan’s London office is regulated by the FCA and is located at 25 Bank Street, London, Canary Wharf, E14 5JP, United Kingdom. JPMorgan is a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase & Co. While the United Kingdom operations of the Custodian are regulated by the FCA, the custodial services provided by the Custodian and any sub-custodian, including the Zurich Sub-Custodian under the Custody Agreements, are presently not a regulated activity subject to the supervision and rules of the FCA. The Zurich Sub-Custodian that the Custodian currently uses is UBS AG, which is located at 45 Bahnhofstrasse, 8021 Zurich, Switzerland.

 

The Custodian’s Role

 

The Custodian is responsible for safekeeping of the Trust’s gold deposited with it by Authorized Participants in connection with the creation of Baskets. The Custodian is also responsible for selecting the Zurich Sub-Custodian and its other sub-custodians, if any. The Custodian facilitates the transfer of gold in and out of the Trust through the unallocated gold accounts it will maintain for each Authorized Participant and the unallocated and allocated gold accounts it will maintain for the Trust. The Custodian holds the Trust’s allocated gold at its London and Zurich vault premises. The Custodian is responsible for allocating specific bars of gold bullion to the Trust Allocated Account. The Custodian provides the Trustee with regular reports detailing the gold transfers in and out of the Trust’s unallocated and allocated gold accounts and identifying the gold bars held in the Trust’s allocated gold account.

 

The Custodian’s fees and expenses under the Custody Agreements are paid by the Sponsor.

 

The Custodian and its affiliates may from time to time act as Authorized Participants or purchase or sell gold or Shares for their own account, as agent for their customers and for accounts over which they exercise investment discretion. The Custodian and its affiliates are subject to the same transaction fee as other Authorized Participants.

 

Inspection of Gold

 

Under the Custody Agreements, the Trustee, the Sponsor and the Sponsor’s auditors and inspectors may, only up to twice a year, visit the premises of the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodian for the purpose of examining the Trust’s gold and certain related records maintained by the Custodian. Under the Allocated Account Agreement, the Custodian agreed to procure similar inspection rights from the Zurich Sub-Custodian. Visits by auditors and inspectors to the Zurich Sub-Custodian’s facilities will be arranged through the Custodian. Other than with respect to the Zurich Sub-Custodian, the Trustee and the Sponsor have no right to visit the premises of any sub-custodian for the purposes of examining the Trust’s gold or any records maintained by the sub-custodian, and no sub-custodian is obligated to cooperate in any review the Trustee or the Sponsor may wish to conduct of the facilities, procedures, records or creditworthiness of such sub-custodian.

 

The Sponsor has exercised its right to visit the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodian, in order to examine the gold and the records maintained by them. Inspections were conducted by Inspectorate International Limited, a leading commodity inspection and testing company retained by the Sponsor, as of August 14, 2020. Due to unprecedented social lock-down policies implemented in the UK and Switzerland to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, neither the Sponsor, nor Inspectorate, were able to perform a physical inspection of the Trust's gold at December 31, 2020. In lieu of a physical inspection, the Sponsor performed alternative procedures to verify the gold held by the Trust at December 31, 2020. These procedures included confirmation of the gold bar list and total ounces of gold held by the Custodian at December 31, 2020, and an independent recalculation of ounces of gold for each creation or redemption transaction from August 14, 2020, the date of the last physical inspection, through December 31, 2020. The Sponsor and Inspectorate also virtually inspected a selection of gold bars held by the Custodian on behalf of the Trust, verifying the weight of the bars and that the serial numbers of the bars selected matched the records of the Trust.

 

Description of the Shares

 

General

 

The Trustee is authorized under the Trust Agreement to create and issue an unlimited number of Shares. The Trustee creates Shares only in Baskets and only upon the order of an Authorized Participant. Effective November 4, 2019, the number of Shares that constitute a Basket for the purposes of creations and redemptions is 100,000 Shares. Prior to November 4, 2019, a Basket consisted of 50,000 Shares. The Shares represent units of fractional undivided beneficial interest in and ownership of the Trust and have no par value. Any creation and issuance of Shares above the amount registered on the Trust’s then-current and effective registration statement with the SEC will require the registration of such additional Shares.

 

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Description of Limited Rights

 

The Shares do not represent a traditional investment and Shareholders should not view them as similar to shares of a corporation operating a business enterprise with management and a board of directors. Shareholders do not have the statutory rights normally associated with the ownership of shares of a corporation, including, for example, the right to bring “oppression” or “derivative” actions. All Shares are of the same class with equal rights and privileges. Each Share is transferable, is fully paid and non-assessable and entitles the holder to vote on the limited matters upon which Shareholders may vote under the Trust Agreement. The Shares do not entitle their holders to any conversion or pre-emptive rights, or, except as provided below, any redemption rights or rights to distributions.

 

Distributions

 

If the Trust is terminated and liquidated, the Trustee will distribute to the Shareholders any amounts remaining after the satisfaction of all outstanding liabilities of the Trust and the establishment of such reserves for applicable taxes, other governmental charges and contingent or future liabilities as the Trustee shall determine. Shareholders of record on the record date fixed by the Trustee for a distribution will be entitled to receive their pro rata portion of any distribution.

 

Voting and Approvals

 

Under the Trust Agreement, Shareholders have no voting rights, except in limited circumstances. The Trustee may terminate the Trust upon the agreement of Shareholders owning at least 75% of the outstanding Shares. In addition, certain amendments to the Trust Agreement require advance notice to the Shareholders before the effectiveness of such amendments, but no Shareholder vote or approval is required for any amendment to the Trust Agreement.

 

Redemption of the Shares

 

The Shares may only be redeemed by or through an Authorized Participant and only in Baskets.

 

Book-Entry Form

 

Individual certificates will not be issued for the Shares. Instead, one or more global certificates is deposited by the Trustee with DTC and registered in the name of Cede & Co., as nominee for DTC. The global certificates evidence all of the Shares outstanding at any time. Under the Trust Agreement, Shareholders are limited to (1) participants in DTC such as banks, brokers, dealers and trust companies (DTC Participants), (2) those who maintain, either directly or indirectly, a custodial relationship with a DTC Participant (Indirect Participants), and (3) those banks, brokers, dealers, trust companies and others who hold interests in the Shares through DTC Participants or Indirect Participants. The Shares are only transferable through the book-entry system of DTC. Shareholders who are not DTC Participants may transfer their Shares through DTC by instructing the DTC Participant holding their Shares (or by instructing the Indirect Participant or other entity through which their Shares are held) to transfer the Shares. Transfers will be made in accordance with standard securities industry practice.

 

Custody of the Trust’s Gold

 

Custody of the gold bullion deposited with and held by the Trust is provided by the Custodian at the London and Zurich vaults of the Custodian and/or the Zurich Sub-Custodian, and by other sub-custodians on a temporary basis. The Custodian is a market maker, clearer and approved weigher under the rules of the LBMA.

 

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The Custodian is the custodian of the gold bullion credited to the Trust Allocated Account in accordance with the Custody Agreements. The Custodian segregates the gold bullion credited to the Trust Allocated Account from any other precious metal it holds or holds for others by entering appropriate entries in its books and records, and requires any Zurich Sub-Custodian it appoints to also segregate the gold bullion from the other gold held by them for other customers of the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodians’ other customers. The Custodian requires any Zurich Sub-Custodian it appoints to identify in such Zurich Sub-Custodian’s books and records the Trust as having the rights to the gold bullion credited to its Trust Allocated Account. Under the Custody Agreements, the Trustee, the Sponsor and the Sponsor’s auditors and inspectors may inspect the vaults of the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodian. See “Inspection of Gold”.

 

The Custodian, as instructed by the Trustee on behalf of the Trust, is authorized to accept, on behalf of the Trust, deposits of gold in unallocated form. Acting on standing instructions given by the Trustee specified in the Custody Agreements, the Custodian allocates or requires the Zurich Sub-Custodian to allocate gold deposited in unallocated form with the Trust by selecting bars of gold bullion for deposit to the Trust Allocated Account. All gold bullion allocated to the Trust must conform to the rules, regulations, practices and customs of the LBMA.

 

The process of withdrawing gold from the Trust for a redemption of a Basket follows the same general procedure as for depositing gold with the Trust for a creation of a Basket, only in reverse. Each transfer of gold between the Trust Allocated Account and the Trust Unallocated Account connected with a creation or redemption of a Basket may result in a small amount of gold being held in the Trust Unallocated Account after the completion of the transfer. In making deposits and withdrawals between the Trust Allocated Account and the Trust Unallocated Account, the Custodian will use commercially reasonable efforts to minimize the amount of gold held in the Trust Unallocated Account as of the close of each business day. See “Deposit of Gold; Issuance of Shares” and “Withdrawal of Gold; Redemption of Shares.”

 

United States Federal Income Tax Consequences

 

The following discussion of the material US federal income tax consequences generally applies to the purchase, ownership and disposition of Shares by a US Shareholder (as defined below), and certain US federal income tax consequences that may apply to an investment in Shares by a Non-US Shareholder (as defined below). The discussion is based on the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as amended (the “Code”). The discussion below is based on the Code, United States Treasury Regulations (“Treasury Regulations”) promulgated under the Code and judicial and administrative interpretations of the Code, all as in effect on the date of this annual report and all of which are subject to change either prospectively or retroactively. The tax treatment of Shareholders may vary depending upon their own particular circumstances. Certain Shareholders (including broker-dealers, traders, banks and other financial institutions, insurance companies, real estate investment trusts, tax-exempt entities, Shareholders whose functional currency is not the U.S. Dollar or other investors with special circumstances) may be subject to special rules not discussed below. In addition, the following discussion applies only to investors who hold Shares as “capital assets” within the meaning of Code section 1221 and not as part of a straddle, hedging transaction or a conversion or constructive sale transaction. Moreover, the discussion below does not address the effect of any state, local or foreign tax law or any transfer tax on an owner of Shares. Purchasers of Shares are urged to consult their own tax advisors with respect to all federal, state, local and foreign tax law or any transfer tax considerations potentially applicable to their investment in Shares, including substantial changes to the Code made in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97).

 

For purposes of this discussion, a “US Shareholder” is a Shareholder that is:

 

● An individual who is treated as a citizen or resident of the United States for US federal income tax purposes;

 

● A corporation (or other entity treated as a corporation for US federal tax purposes) created or organized in or under the laws of the United States or any political subdivision thereof;

 

● An estate, the income of which is includible in gross income for US federal income tax purposes regardless of its source; or

 

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● A trust, if a court within the United States is able to exercise primary supervision over the administration of the trust and one or more US persons have the authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust.

 

A Shareholder that is not a US Shareholder as defined above (other than a partnership, or an entity treated as a partnership for US federal tax purposes) generally is considered a “Non-US Shareholder” for purposes of this discussion. For US federal income tax purposes, the treatment of any beneficial owner of an interest in a partnership, including any entity treated as a partnership for US federal income tax purposes, generally depends upon the status of the partner and upon the activities of the partnership. Partnerships and partners in partnerships should consult their tax advisors about the US federal income tax consequences of purchasing, owning and disposing of Shares.

 

Taxation of the Trust

 

The Trust is classified as a “grantor trust” for US federal income tax purposes. As a result, the Trust itself is not subject to US federal income tax. Instead, the Trust’s income and expenses “flow through” to the Shareholders, and the Trustee reports the Trust’s income, gains, losses and deductions to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) on that basis.

 

Taxation of US Shareholders

 

Shareholders generally are treated, for US federal income tax purposes, as if they directly owned a pro rata share of the underlying assets held by the Trust. Shareholders are also treated as if they directly received their respective pro rata share of the Trust’s income, if any, and as if they directly incurred their respective pro rata share of the Trust’s expenses. In the case of a Shareholder that purchases Shares for cash, its initial tax basis in its pro rata share of the assets held by the Trust at the time it acquires its Shares is equal to its cost of acquiring the Shares. In the case of a Shareholder that acquires its Shares as part of a creation of a Basket, the delivery of gold to the Trust in exchange for the Shares is not a taxable event to the Shareholder, and the Shareholder’s tax basis and holding period for the Shares are the same as its tax basis and holding period for the gold delivered in exchange therefore (except to the extent of any cash contributed for such Shares). For purposes of this discussion, it is assumed that all of a Shareholder’s Shares are acquired on the same date and at the same price per Share. Shareholders that hold multiple lots of Shares, or that are contemplating acquiring multiple lots of Shares, should consult their tax advisors.

 

When the Trust sells or transfers gold, for example to pay expenses, a Shareholder generally will recognize gain or loss in an amount equal to the difference between (1) the Shareholder’s pro rata share of the amount realized by the Trust upon the sale or transfer and (2) the Shareholder’s tax basis for its pro rata share of the gold that was sold or transferred. Such gain or loss will generally be long-term or short-term capital gain or loss, depending upon whether the Shareholder has a holding period in its Shares of longer than one year. A Shareholder’s tax basis for its share of any gold sold by the Trust generally will be determined by multiplying the Shareholder’s total basis for its Shares immediately prior to the sale, by a fraction the numerator of which is the amount of gold sold, and the denominator of which is the total amount of the gold held by the Trust immediately prior to the sale. After any such sale, a Shareholder’s tax basis for its pro rata share of the gold remaining in the Trust will be equal to its tax basis for its Shares immediately prior to the sale, less the portion of such basis allocable to its share of the gold that was sold.

 

Upon a Shareholder’s sale of some or all of its Shares, the Shareholder will be treated as having sold a pro rata share of the gold held in the Trust at the time of the sale. Accordingly, the Shareholder generally will recognize gain or loss on the sale in an amount equal to the difference between (1) the amount realized pursuant to the sale of the Shares, and (2) the Shareholder’s tax basis for the Shares sold, as determined in the manner described in the preceding paragraph.

 

A redemption of some or all of a Shareholder’s Shares in exchange for the underlying gold represented by the Shares redeemed generally will not be a taxable event to the Shareholder. The Shareholder’s tax basis for the gold received in the redemption generally will be the same as the Shareholder’s tax basis for the Shares redeemed. The Shareholder’s holding period with respect to the gold received should include the period during which the Shareholder held the Shares redeemed. A subsequent sale of the gold received by the Shareholder will be a taxable event.

 

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An Authorized Participant and other investors may be able to re-invest, on a tax-deferred basis, in-kind redemption proceeds received from exchange-traded products that are substantially similar to the Trust in the Trust’s Shares. Authorized Participants and other investors should consult their tax advisors as to whether and under what circumstances the reinvestment in the Shares of proceeds from substantially similar exchange-traded products can be accomplished on a tax-deferred basis.

 

Under current law, gains recognized by individuals, estates or trusts from the sale of “collectibles,” including physical gold, held for more than one year are taxed at a maximum federal income tax rate of 28%, rather than the 20% rate applicable to most other long-term capital gains. For these purposes, gains recognized by an individual upon the sale of Shares held for more than one year, or attributable to the Trust’s sale of any physical gold which the Shareholder is treated (through its ownership of Shares) as having held for more than one year, generally will be taxed at a maximum rate of 28%. The tax rates for capital gains recognized upon the sale of assets held by an individual US Shareholder for one year or less or by a corporate taxpayer are generally the same as those at which ordinary income is taxed.

 

In addition, high-income individuals and certain trusts and estates are subject to a 3.8% Medicare contribution tax that is imposed on net investment income and gain. Shareholders should consult their tax advisor regarding this tax.

 

Brokerage Fees and Trust Expenses

 

Any brokerage or other transaction fees incurred by a Shareholder in purchasing Shares is treated as part of the Shareholder’s tax basis in the Shares. Similarly, any brokerage fee incurred by a Shareholder in selling Shares reduces the amount realized by the Shareholder with respect to the sale.

 

Shareholders will be required to recognize gain or loss upon a sale of gold by the Trust (as discussed above), even though some or all of the proceeds of such sale are used by the Trustee to pay Trust expenses. Shareholders may deduct their respective pro rata share of each expense incurred by the Trust to the same extent as if they directly incurred the expense. Shareholders who are individuals, estates or trusts, however, may be required to treat some or all of the expenses of the Trust, to the extent that such expenses may be deducted, as miscellaneous itemized deductions. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97), miscellaneous itemized deductions, including expenses for the production of income, will not be deductible for either regular federal income tax or alternative minimum tax purposes for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2026.

 

Investment by Regulated Investment Companies

 

Mutual funds and other investment vehicles which are “regulated investment companies” within the meaning of Code section 851 should consult with their tax advisors concerning (1) the likelihood that an investment in Shares, although they are a “security” within the meaning of the Investment Company Act of 1940, may be considered an investment in the underlying gold for purposes of Code section 851(b), and (2) the extent to which an investment in Shares might nevertheless be consistent with preservation of their qualification under Code section 851. In recent administrative guidance, the IRS stated that it will no longer issue rulings under Code section 851(b) relating to the determination of whether or not an instrument or position is a “security”, but, instead, intends to defer to guidance from the SEC for such determination.

 

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United States Information Reporting and Backup Withholding Tax for US and Non-US Shareholders

 

The Trustee or the appropriate broker will file certain information returns with the IRS, and provides certain tax-related information to Shareholders, in accordance with applicable Treasury Regulations. Each Shareholder will be provided with information regarding its allocable portion of the Trust’s annual income (if any) and expenses.

 

A US Shareholder may be subject to US backup withholding tax in certain circumstances unless it provides its taxpayer identification number and complies with certain certification procedures. Non-US Shareholders may have to comply with certification procedures to establish that they are not a US person in order to avoid the backup withholding tax.

 

The amount of any backup withholding tax will be allowed as a credit against a Shareholder’s US federal income tax liability and may entitle such a Shareholder to a refund, provided that the required information is furnished to the IRS.

 

Income Taxation of Non-US Shareholders

 

The Trust does not expect to generate taxable income except for gains (if any) upon the sale of gold. A Non-US Shareholder generally is not subject to US federal income tax with respect to gains recognized upon the sale or other disposition of Shares, or upon the sale of gold by the Trust, unless (1) the Non-US Shareholder is an individual and is present in the United States for 183 days or more during the taxable year of the sale or other disposition, and the gain is treated as being from United States sources; or (2) the gain is effectively connected with the conduct by the Non-US Shareholder of a trade or business in the United States.

 

Taxation in Jurisdictions other than the United States

 

Prospective purchasers of Shares that are based in or acting out of a jurisdiction other than the United States are advised to consult their own tax advisers as to the tax consequences, under the laws of such jurisdiction (or any other jurisdiction not being the United States to which they are subject), of their purchase, holding, sale and redemption of or any other dealing in Shares and, in particular, as to whether any value added tax, other consumption tax or transfer tax is payable in relation to such purchase, holding, sale, redemption or other dealing.

 

ERISA and Related Considerations

 

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”), and/or Code section 4975 impose certain requirements on certain employee benefit plans and certain other plans and arrangements, including individual retirement accounts and annuities, Keogh plans, and certain commingled investment vehicles or insurance company general or separate accounts in which such plans or arrangements are invested (collectively, “Plans”), and on persons who are fiduciaries with respect to the investment of “plan assets” of a Plan. Government plans and some church plans are not subject to the fiduciary responsibility provisions of ERISA or the provisions of section 4975 of the Code, but may be subject to substantially similar rules under other federal law, or under state or local law (“Other Law”).

 

In contemplating an investment of a portion of Plan assets in Shares, the Plan fiduciary responsible for making such investment should carefully consider, taking into account the facts and circumstances of the Plan and the “Risk Factors” discussed above and whether such investment is consistent with its fiduciary responsibilities under ERISA or Other Law, including, but not limited to: (1) whether the investment is permitted under the Plan’s governing documents, (2) whether the fiduciary has the authority to make the investment, (3) whether the investment is consistent with the Plan’s funding objectives, (4) the tax effects of the investment on the Plan, and (5) whether the investment is prudent considering the factors discussed in this report. In addition, ERISA and Code section 4975 prohibit a broad range of transactions involving assets of a plan and persons who are “parties in interest” under ERISA or “disqualified persons” under section 4975 of the Code. A violation of these rules may result in the imposition of significant excise taxes and other liabilities. Plans subject to Other Law may be subject to similar restrictions.

 

It is anticipated that the Shares will constitute “publicly offered securities” as defined in the Department of Labor “Plan Asset Regulations,” §2510.3-101 (b)(2) as modified by section 3(42) of ERISA. Accordingly, pursuant to the Plan Asset Regulations, only Shares purchased by a Plan, and not an interest in the underlying assets held in the Trust, should be treated as assets of the Plan, for purposes of applying the “fiduciary responsibility” rules of ERISA and the “prohibited transaction” rules of ERISA and the Code. Fiduciaries of plans subject to Other Law should consult legal counsel to determine whether there would be a similar result under the Other Law.

 

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Investment by Certain Retirement Plans

 

Code section 408(m) provides that the acquisition of a “collectible” by an individual retirement account (“IRA”) or a participant-directed account maintained under any plan that is tax-qualified under Code section 401(a) (“Tax Qualified Account”) is treated as a taxable distribution from the account to the owner of the IRA, or to the participant for whom the Tax Qualified Account is maintained, of an amount equal to the cost to the account of acquiring the collectible. The term “collectible” is defined to include, with certain exceptions, “any metal or gem”. The IRS has issued several private letter rulings to the effect that a purchase by an IRA, or by a participant-directed account under a Code section 401(a) plan, of publicly-traded shares in a trust holding precious metals will not be treated as resulting in a taxable distribution to the IRA owner or Tax Qualified Account participant under Code section 408(m). However the private letter rulings provide that, if any of the Shares so purchased are distributed from the IRA or Tax Qualified Account to the IRA owner or Tax Qualified Account participant, or if any precious metal is received by such IRA or Tax Qualified Account upon the redemption of any of the Shares purchased by it, the Shares or precious metal so distributed will be subject to federal income tax in the year of distribution, to the extent provided under the applicable provisions of Code sections 408(d), 408(m) or 402. Accordingly, potential IRA or Tax Qualified Account investors are urged to consult with their own professional advisors concerning the treatment of an investment in Shares under Code section 408(m).

 

Item 1A. Risk Factors

 

Shareholders should consider carefully the risks described below before making an investment decision. Shareholders should also refer to the other information included in this report, including the Trust’s financial statements and the related notes.

 

RISKS RELATED TO GOLD

 

The price of gold may be affected by the sale of ETVs tracking the gold markets.

 

To the extent existing exchange traded vehicles (“ETVs”) tracking the gold markets represent a significant proportion of demand for physical gold bullion, large redemptions of the securities of these ETVs could negatively affect physical gold bullion prices and the price and NAV of the Shares.

 

Crises may motivate large-scale sales of  gold which could decrease the price of gold and adversely affect an investment in the Shares. 

 

The possibility of large-scale distress sales of gold in times of crisis may have a short-term negative impact on the price of gold and adversely affect an investment in the Shares. For example, the 2008 financial credit crisis resulted in significantly depressed prices of gold largely due to forced sales and deleveraging from institutional investors such as hedge funds and pension funds. Crises in the future may impair gold’s price performance which would, in turn, adversely affect an investment in the Shares.

 

Several factors may have the effect of causing a decline in the prices of gold and a corresponding decline in the price of Shares. Among them:

 

A significant increase in gold hedging activity by gold producers. Should there be an increase in the level of hedge activity of gold producing companies, it could cause a decline in world gold prices, adversely affecting the price of the Shares.

  

A significant change in the attitude of speculators, investors and central banks towards gold. Should the speculative community take a negative view towards gold or central banking authorities determine to sell national gold reserves, either event could cause a decline in world gold prices, negatively impacting the price of the Shares.

  

A widening of interest rate differentials between the cost of money and the cost of gold could negatively affect the price of gold which, in turn, could negatively affect the price of the Shares.

  

A combination of rising money interest rates and a continuation of the current low cost of borrowing gold could improve the economics of selling gold forward. This could result in an increase in hedging by gold mining companies and short selling by speculative interests, which would negatively affect the price of gold. Under such circumstances, the price of the Shares would be similarly affected.

 

The value of the Shares relates directly to the value of the gold held by the Trust and fluctuations in the price of gold could materially adversely affect an investment in the Shares.

 

The Shares are designed to mirror as closely as possible the performance of the price of gold bullion, and the value of the Shares relates directly to the value of the gold held by the Trust, less the Trust’s liabilities (including estimated accrued but unpaid expenses). The price of gold has fluctuated widely over the past several years. Several factors may affect the price of gold, including:

 

Global gold supply and demand, which is influenced by such factors as forward selling by gold producers, purchases made by gold producers to unwind gold hedge positions, central bank purchases and sales, and production and cost levels in major gold-producing countries such as China, Australia, Russia and the United States;

 

Investors’ expectations with respect to the rate of inflation;

 

Currency exchange rates;

 

Interest rates;

 

Investment and trading activities of hedge funds and commodity funds; and

 

Global or regional political, economic or financial events and situations.

 

In addition, investors should be aware that there is no assurance that gold will maintain its long-term value in terms of purchasing power in the future. In the event that the price of gold declines, the Sponsor expects the value of an investment in the Shares to decline proportionately.

 

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RISKS RELATED TO THE SHARES

 

The sale of the Trust’s gold to pay expenses not assumed by the Sponsor at a time of low gold prices could adversely affect the value of the Shares.

 

The Trustee sells gold held by the Trust to pay Trust expenses not assumed by the Sponsor on an as-needed basis irrespective of then-current gold prices. The Trust is not actively managed and no attempt will be made to buy or sell gold to protect against or to take advantage of fluctuations in the price of gold. Consequently, the Trust’s gold may be sold at a time when the gold price is low, resulting in a negative effect on the value of the Shares.

 

The value of the Shares will be adversely affected if the Trust is required to indemnify the Sponsor or the Trustee under the Trust Agreement.

 

Under the Trust Agreement, each of the Sponsor and the Trustee has a right to be indemnified from the Trust for any liability or expense it incurs without gross negligence, bad faith, willful misconduct, willful malfeasance or reckless disregard on its part. That means the Sponsor or the Trustee may require the assets of the Trust to be sold in order to cover losses or liability suffered by it. Any sale of that kind would reduce the NAV of the Trust and the value of the Shares.

 

The Shares may trade at a price which is at, above or below the NAV per Share and any discount or premium in the trading price relative to the NAV per Share may widen as a result of non-concurrent trading hours between the NYSE Arca and London, Zurich and COMEX.

 

The Shares may trade at, above or below the NAV per Share. The NAV per Share fluctuates with changes in the market value of the Trust’s assets. The trading price of the Shares fluctuates in accordance with changes in the NAV per Share as well as market supply and demand. The amount of the discount or premium in the trading price relative to the NAV per Share may be influenced by non-concurrent trading hours between the NYSE Arca and the major gold markets. While the Shares trade on the NYSE Arca until 4:00 p.m. New York time, liquidity in the market for gold is reduced after the close of the major world gold markets, including London, Zurich and the COMEX. As a result, during this time, trading spreads, and the resulting premium or discount on the Shares, may widen.

 

A possible “short squeeze” due to a sudden increase in demand of Shares that largely exceeds supply may lead to price volatility in the Shares.

 

Investors may purchase Shares to hedge existing gold exposure or to speculate on the price of gold. Speculation on the price of gold may involve long and short exposures. To the extent aggregate short exposure exceeds the number of Shares available for purchase (for example, in the event that large redemption requests by Authorized Participants dramatically affect Share liquidity), investors with short exposure may have to pay a premium to repurchase Shares for delivery to Share lenders. Those repurchases may in turn, dramatically increase the price of the Shares until additional Shares are created through the creation process. This is often referred to as a “short squeeze.” A short squeeze could lead to volatile price movements in Shares that are not directly correlated to the price of gold.

 

Purchasing activity in the gold market associated with the purchase of Baskets from the Trust may cause a temporary increase in the price of gold. This increase may adversely affect an investment in the Shares.

 

Purchasing activity associated with acquiring the gold required for deposit into the Trust in connection with the creation of Baskets may temporarily increase the market price of gold, which will result in higher prices for the Shares. Temporary increases in the market price of gold may also occur as a result of the purchasing activity of other market participants. Other gold market participants may attempt to benefit from an increase in the market price of gold that may result from increased purchasing activity of gold connected with the issuance of Baskets. Consequently, the market price of gold may decline immediately after Baskets are created. If the price of gold declines, the trading price of the Shares may also decline.

 

The Shares and their value could decrease if unanticipated operational or trading problems arise.

 

There may be unanticipated problems or issues with respect to the mechanics of the Trust’s operations and the trading of the Shares that could have a material adverse effect on an investment in the Shares. In addition, although the Trust is not actively “managed” by traditional methods, to the extent that unanticipated operational or trading problems or issues arise, the Sponsor’s past experience and qualifications may not be suitable for solving these problems or issues.

 

Discrepancies, disruptions or unreliability of the LBMA PM Gold Price could impact the value of the Trust’s gold and the market price of the Shares.

 

The Trustee values the Trust’s gold pursuant to the LBMA PM Gold Price. In the event that the LBMA PM Gold Price proves to be an inaccurate benchmark, or the LBMA PM Gold Price varies materially from the prices determined by other mechanisms for valuing gold, the value of the Trust’s gold and the market price of the Shares could be adversely impacted. Any future developments in the LBMA PM Gold Price, to the extent it has a material impact on the LBMA PM Gold Price, could adversely impact the value of the Trust’s gold and the market price of the Shares. It is possible that electronic failures or other unanticipated events may occur that could result in delays in the announcement of, or the inability of the benchmark to produce, the LBMA PM Gold Price on any given date. Furthermore, any actual or perceived disruptions that result in the perception that the LBMA PM Gold Price is vulnerable to actual or attempted manipulation could adversely affect the behavior of market participants, which may have an effect on the price of gold. If the LBMA PM Gold Price is unreliable for any reason, the price of gold and the market price for the Shares may decline or be subject to greater volatility.

 

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If the process of creation and redemption of Baskets encounters any unanticipated difficulties, the possibility for arbitrage transactions intended to keep the price of the Shares closely linked to the price of gold may not exist and, as a result, the price of the Shares may fall.

 

If the processes of creation and redemption of Shares (which depend on timely transfers of gold to and by the Custodian) encounter any unanticipated difficulties, potential market participants who would otherwise be willing to purchase or redeem Baskets to take advantage of any arbitrage opportunity arising from discrepancies between the price of the Shares and the price of the underlying gold may not take the risk that, as a result of those difficulties, they may not be able to realize the profit they expect. If this is the case, the liquidity of Shares may decline and the price of the Shares may fluctuate independently of the price of gold and may fall. Additionally, redemptions could be suspended for any period during which (1) the NYSE Arca is closed (other than customary weekend or holiday closings) or trading on the NYSE Arca is suspended or restricted, or (2) an emergency exists as a result of which delivery, disposal or evaluation of the gold is not reasonably practicable.

 

The liquidity of the Shares may be affected by the withdrawal from participation of one or more Authorized Participants.

 

In the event that one or more Authorized Participants having substantial interests in Shares or otherwise responsible for a significant portion of the Shares’ daily trading volume on the Exchange withdraw from participation, the liquidity of the Shares will likely decrease which could adversely affect the market price of the Shares and result in Shareholders incurring a loss on their investment.

 

Shareholders do not have the protections associated with ownership of shares in an investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 or the protections afforded by the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”).

 

The Trust is not registered as an investment company under the Investment Company Act of 1940 and is not required to register under such act. Consequently, Shareholders do not have the regulatory protections provided to investors in investment companies. The Trust does not and will not hold or trade in commodity futures contracts, “commodity interests” or any other instruments regulated by the CEA, as administered by the CFTC and the National Futures Association (“NFA”). Furthermore, the Trust is not a commodity pool for purposes of the CEA and the Shares are not “commodity interests”, and neither the Sponsor nor the Trustee is subject to regulation by the CFTC as a commodity pool operator or a commodity trading advisor in connection with the Trust or the Shares. Consequently, Shareholders do not have the regulatory protections provided to investors in CEA-regulated instruments or commodity pools operated by registered commodity pool operators or advised by commodity trading advisors.

 

The Trust may be required to terminate and liquidate at a time that is disadvantageous to Shareholders.

 

If the Trust is required to terminate and liquidate, such termination and liquidation could occur at a time which is disadvantageous to Shareholders, such as when gold prices are lower than the gold prices at the time when Shareholders purchased their Shares. In such a case, when the Trust’s gold is sold as part of the Trust’s liquidation, the resulting proceeds distributed to Shareholders will be less than if gold prices were higher at the time of sale.

 

The lack of an active trading market for the Shares may result in losses on investment at the time of disposition of the Shares.

 

Although Shares are listed for trading on the NYSE Arca, it cannot be assumed that an active trading market for the Shares will develop or be maintained. If an investor needs to sell Shares at a time when no active market for Shares exists, such lack of an active market will most likely adversely affect the price the investor receives for the Shares (assuming the investor is able to sell them).

 

Shareholders do not have the rights enjoyed by investors in certain other vehicles.

 

As interests in an investment trust, the Shares have none of the statutory rights normally associated with the ownership of shares of a corporation (including, for example, the right to bring “oppression” or “derivative” actions). In addition, the Shares have limited voting and distribution rights (for example, Shareholders do not have the right to elect directors or approve amendments to the Trust Agreement and do not receive dividends).

 

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An investment in the Shares may be adversely affected by competition from other methods of investing in gold.

 

The Trust competes with other financial vehicles, including traditional debt and equity securities issued by companies in the gold industry and other securities backed by or linked to gold, direct investments in gold and investment vehicles similar to the Trust. Market and financial conditions, and other conditions beyond the Sponsor’s control, may make it more attractive to invest in other financial vehicles or to invest in gold directly, which could limit the market for the Shares and reduce the liquidity of the Shares.

 

The amount of gold represented by each Share will decrease over the life of the Trust due to the recurring deliveries of gold necessary to pay the Sponsor’s Fee in-kind and potential sales of gold to pay in cash the Trust expenses not assumed by the Sponsor. Without increases in the price of gold sufficient to compensate for that decrease, the price of the Shares will also decline proportionately over the life of the Trust.

 

The amount of gold represented by each Share decreases each day by the Sponsor’s Fee. In addition, although the Sponsor has agreed to assume all organizational and certain administrative and marketing expenses incurred by the Trust (the Trustee’s monthly fee and out-of-pocket expenses, the Custodian’s fee and reimbursement of the Custodian’s expenses under the Custody Agreements, Exchange listing fees, SEC registration fees, printing and mailing costs, audit fees and up to $100,000 per annum in legal expenses), in exceptional cases certain Trust expenses may need to be paid by the Trust. Because the Trust does not have any income, it must either make payments in-kind by deliveries of gold (as is the case with the Sponsor’s Fee) or it must sell gold to obtain cash (as in the case of any exceptional expenses).  The result of these sales of gold and recurring deliveries of gold to pay the Sponsor’s Fee in-kind is a decrease in the amount of gold represented by each Share. New deposits of gold, received in exchange for new Shares issued by the Trust, will not reverse this trend.

 

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A decrease in the amount of gold represented by each Share results in a decrease in each Share’s price even if the price of gold bullion does not change. To retain the Share’s original price, the price of gold must increase. Without that increase, the lesser amount of gold represented by the Share will have a correspondingly lower price. If this increase does not occur, or is not sufficient to counter the lesser amount of gold represented by each Share, Shareholders will sustain losses on their investment in Shares.

 

An increase in Trust expenses not assumed by the Sponsor, or the existence of unexpected liabilities affecting the Trust, will require the Trustee to sell larger amounts of gold, and will result in a more rapid decrease of the amount of gold represented by each Share and a corresponding decrease in its value.

 

RISKS RELATED TO THE CUSTODY OF GOLD 

 

The Trust’s gold may be subject to loss, damage, theft or restriction on access.

 

There is a risk that part or all of the Trust’s gold could be lost, damaged or stolen. Access to the Trust’s gold could also be restricted by natural events (such as an earthquake) or human actions (such as a terrorist attack). Any of these events may adversely affect the operations of the Trust and, consequently, an investment in the Shares.

 

The Trust’s lack of insurance protection and the Shareholders’ limited rights of legal recourse against the Trust, the Trustee, the Sponsor, the Custodian, the Zurich Sub-Custodian and any other sub-custodian exposes the Trust and its Shareholders to the risk of loss of the Trust’s gold for which no person is liable.

 

The Trust does not insure its gold. The Custodian maintains insurance with regard to its business on such terms and conditions as it considers appropriate in connection with its custodial obligations and is responsible for all costs, fees and expenses arising from the insurance policy or policies. The Trust is not a beneficiary of any such insurance and does not have the ability to dictate the existence, nature or amount of coverage. Therefore, Shareholders cannot be assured that the Custodian maintains adequate insurance or any insurance with respect to the gold held by the Custodian on behalf of the Trust. In addition, the Custodian and the Trustee do not require the Zurich Sub-Custodian or any other direct or indirect sub-custodians to be insured or bonded with respect to their custodial activities or in respect of the gold held by them on behalf of the Trust. Further, Shareholders’ recourse against the Trust, the Trustee and the Sponsor under New York law, the Custodian, the Zurich Sub-Custodian and any other sub-custodian under English law, and any other sub-custodian under the law governing their custody operations is limited. Consequently, a loss may be suffered with respect to the Trust’s gold which is not covered by insurance and for which no person is liable in damages.

 

The Custodian’s limited liability under the Custody Agreements and English law may impair the ability of the Trust to recover losses concerning its gold and any recovery may be limited, even in the event of fraud, to the market value of the gold at the time the fraud is discovered.

 

The liability of the Custodian is limited under the Custody Agreements. Under the Custody Agreements between the Trustee and the Custodian which establish the Trust’s unallocated gold account (“Unallocated Account”) and the Trust’s allocated gold account (“Allocated Account”), the Custodian is only liable for losses that are the direct result of its own negligence, fraud or willful default in the performance of its duties. Any such liability is further limited to the market value of the gold lost or damaged at the time such negligence, fraud or willful default is discovered by the Custodian provided the Custodian notifies the Trust and the Trustee promptly after the discovery of the loss or damage. Under each Authorized Participant Unallocated Bullion Account Agreement (between the Custodian and an Authorized Participant establishing an Authorized Participant Unallocated Account), the Custodian is not contractually or otherwise liable for any losses suffered by any Authorized Participant or Shareholder that are not the direct result of its own gross negligence, fraud or willful default in the performance of its duties under such agreement, and in no event will its liability exceed the market value of the balance in the Authorized Participant Unallocated Account at the time such gross negligence, fraud or willful default is discovered by the Custodian. For any Authorized Participant Unallocated Bullion Account Agreement between an Authorized Participant and another gold clearing bank, the liability of the gold clearing bank to the Authorized Participant may be greater or lesser than the Custodian’s liability to the Authorized Participant described in the preceding sentence, depending on the terms of the agreement. In addition, the Custodian will not be liable for any delay in performance or any non-performance of any of its obligations under the Allocated Account Agreement, the Unallocated Account Agreement or the Authorized Participant Unallocated Bullion Account Agreement by reason of any cause beyond its reasonable control, including acts of God, war or terrorism. As a result, the recourse of the Trustee or a Shareholder, under English law, is limited. Furthermore, under English common law, the Custodian, the Zurich Sub-Custodian, or any other sub-custodian will not be liable for any delay in the performance or any non-performance of its custodial obligations by reason of any cause beyond its reasonable control.

 

23 

 

 

The obligations of the Custodian, the Zurich Sub-Custodian and any other sub-custodians are governed by English law, which may frustrate the Trust in attempting to seek legal redress against the Custodian, the Zurich Sub-Custodian or any other sub-custodian concerning its gold.

 

The obligations of the Custodian under the Custody Agreements are, and the Authorized Participant Unallocated Bullion Account Agreements may be, governed by English law. The Custodian has entered into arrangements with the Zurich Sub-Custodian and may enter into arrangements with any other sub-custodians for the custody or temporary holding of the Trust’s gold, which arrangements may also be governed by English law. The Trust is a New York common law trust. Any United States, New York or other court situated in the United States may have difficulty interpreting English law (which, insofar as it relates to custody arrangements, is largely derived from court rulings rather than statute), LBMA rules or the customs and practices in the London custody market. It may be difficult or impossible for the Trust to sue the Zurich Sub-Custodian or any other sub-custodian in a United States, New York or other court situated in the United States. In addition, it may be difficult, time consuming and/or expensive for the Trust to enforce in a foreign court a judgment rendered by a United States, New York or other court situated in the United States.

 

Although the relationship between the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodian concerning the Trust’s allocated gold is expressly governed by English law, a court hearing any legal dispute concerning their arrangement may disregard that choice of law and apply Swiss law, in which case the ability of the Trust to seek legal redress against the Zurich Sub-Custodian may be frustrated.

 

The obligations of the Zurich Sub-Custodian under its arrangement with the Custodian with respect to the Trust’s allocated gold is expressly governed by English law. Nevertheless, a court in the United States, England or Switzerland may determine that English law should not apply and, instead, apply Swiss law to that arrangement. Not only might it be difficult or impossible for a United States or English court to apply Swiss law to the Zurich Sub-Custodian’s arrangement, but application of Swiss law may, among other things, alter the relative rights and obligations of the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodian to the extent that a loss to the Trust’s gold may not have adequate or any legal redress. Further, the ability of the Trust to seek legal redress against the Zurich Sub-Custodian may be frustrated by application of Swiss law.

 

The Trust may not have adequate sources of recovery if its gold is lost, damaged, stolen or destroyed.

 

If the Trust’s gold is lost, damaged, stolen or destroyed under circumstances rendering a party liable to the Trust, the responsible party may not have the financial resources sufficient to satisfy the Trust’s claim. For example, as to a particular event of loss, the only source of recovery for the Trust might be limited to the Custodian, the Zurich Sub-Custodian or any other sub-custodian or, to the extent identifiable, other responsible third parties (e.g., a thief or terrorist), any of which may not have the financial resources (including liability insurance coverage) to satisfy a valid claim of the Trust.

 

Shareholders and Authorized Participants lack the right under the Custody Agreements to assert claims directly against the Custodian, the Zurich Sub-Custodian, and any other sub-custodian.

 

Neither the Shareholders nor any Authorized Participant have a right under the Custody Agreements to assert a claim of the Trust against the Custodian, the Zurich Sub-Custodian or any other sub-custodian. Claims under the Custody Agreements may only be asserted by the Trustee on behalf of the Trust.

 

24 

 

 

The Custodian may be reliant to use the Zurich Sub-Custodian for the safekeeping of all or a substantial portion of the Trust’s gold. Furthermore, the Custodian has limited obligations to oversee or monitor the Zurich Sub-Custodian. As a result, failure by any Zurich Sub-Custodian to exercise due care in the safekeeping of the Trust’s gold could result in a loss to the Trust.

 

Gold generally trades on a loco London or loco Zurich basis whereby the physical gold is held in vaults located in London or Zurich or is transferred into accounts established in London or Zurich. The Custodian has a vault in Zurich and is able to use the Zurich Sub-Custodian for the safekeeping of all or a substantial portion of the Trust’s allocated gold. Other than obligations to (1) use reasonable care in appointing the Zurich Sub-Custodian, (2) require any Zurich Sub-Custodian to segregate the gold held by it for the Trust from any other gold held by it for the Custodian and any other customers of the Custodian by making appropriate entries in its books and records and (3) ensure that the Zurich Sub-Custodian provide confirmation to the Trustee that it has undertaken to segregate the gold held by it for the Trust, the Custodian is not liable for the acts or omissions of the Zurich Sub-Custodian. Other than as described above, the Custodian does not undertake to monitor the performance by the Zurich Sub-Custodian of its custody functions. The Trustee’s obligation to monitor the performance of the Custodian is limited to receiving and reviewing the reports of the Custodian. The Trustee does not monitor the performance of the Zurich Sub-Custodian or any other sub-custodian. In addition, the ability of the Trustee and the Sponsor to monitor the performance of the Custodian may be limited because under the Custody Agreements, the Trustee and the Sponsor have only limited rights to visit the premises of the Custodian or the Zurich Sub-Custodian for the purpose of examining the Trust’s gold and certain related records maintained by the Custodian or Zurich Sub-Custodian.

 

As a result of the above, any failure by any Zurich Sub-Custodian to exercise due care in the safekeeping of the Trust’s gold may not be detectable or controllable by the Custodian or the Trustee and could result in a loss to the Trust.

 

Because the Trustee does not, and the Custodian has limited obligations to, oversee and monitor the activities of sub-custodians who may hold the Trust’s gold, failure by the sub-custodians to exercise due care in the safekeeping of the Trust’s gold could result in a loss to the Trust.

 

Under the Allocated Account Agreement, the Custodian may appoint from time to time one or more sub-custodians to hold the Trust’s gold on a temporary basis pending delivery to the Custodian. The sub-custodians which the Custodian currently uses are the Bank of England, ICBC Standard Bank plc, The Bank of Nova Scotia – ScotiaMocatta, HSBC Bank plc, Malca-Amit SA Zurich, Union Bank of Switzerland (“UBS”) and Brinks Global Services Inc. and the Custodian may use other LBMA clearing members that provide bullion vaulting and clearing services to third parties. The Custodian has selected the Zurich Sub-Custodian, and the Zurich Sub-Custodian may maintain custody of all of the Trust’s allocated gold for the Custodian. The Custodian is required under the Allocated Account Agreement to use reasonable care in appointing the Zurich Sub-Custodian and any other sub-custodians, making the Custodian liable only for negligence or bad faith in the selection of such sub-custodians, and has an obligation to use commercially reasonable efforts to obtain delivery of the Trust’s gold from any sub-custodians appointed by the Custodian. Otherwise, the Custodian is not liable for the acts or omissions of its sub-custodians. These sub-custodians may in turn appoint further sub-custodians, but the Custodian is not responsible for the appointment of these further sub-custodians. The Custodian does not undertake to monitor the performance by sub-custodians of their custody functions or their selection of further sub-custodians. The Trustee does not monitor the performance of the Custodian other than to review the reports provided by the Custodian pursuant to the Custody Agreements and does not undertake to monitor the performance of any sub-custodian. Furthermore, except for the Zurich Sub-Custodian, the Trustee may have no right to visit the premises of any sub-custodian for the purposes of examining the Trust’s gold or any records maintained by the sub-custodian, and no sub-custodian will be obligated to cooperate in any review the Trustee may wish to conduct of the facilities, procedures, records or creditworthiness of such sub-custodian. In addition, the ability of the Trustee to monitor the performance of the Custodian may be limited because under the Allocated Account Agreement and the Unallocated Account Agreement the Trustee has only limited rights to visit the premises of the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodian for the purpose of examining the Trust’s gold and certain related records maintained by the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodian. See “Custody of the Trust’s Gold” for more information about sub-custodians that may hold the Trust’s gold.

 

25 

 

 

The obligations of any sub-custodian of the Trust’s gold are not determined by contractual arrangements but by LBMA rules and London bullion market customs and practices, which may prevent the Trust’s recovery of damages for losses on its gold custodied with sub-custodians.

 

Except for the Custodian’s arrangement with the Zurich Sub-Custodian, there are expected to be no written contractual arrangements between sub-custodians that hold the Trust’s gold and the Trustee or the Custodian because traditionally such arrangements are based on the LBMA’s rules and on the customs and practices of the London bullion market. In the event of a legal dispute with respect to or arising from such arrangements, it may be difficult to define such customs and practices. The LBMA’s rules may be subject to change outside the control of the Trust. Under English law, neither the Trustee nor the Custodian would have a supportable breach of contract claim against a sub-custodian for losses relating to the safekeeping of gold. If the Trust’s gold is lost or damaged while in the custody of a sub-custodian, the Trust may not be able to recover damages from the Custodian or the sub-custodian. Whether a sub-custodian will be liable for the failure of sub-custodians appointed by it to exercise due care in the safekeeping of the Trust’s gold will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular situation. Shareholders cannot be assured that the Trustee will be able to recover damages from sub-custodians whether appointed by the Custodian or by another sub-custodian for any losses relating to the safekeeping of gold by such sub-custodians.

 

Gold bullion allocated to the Trust in connection with the creation of a Basket may not meet the London Good Delivery Standards and, if a Basket is issued against such gold, the Trust may suffer a loss.

 

Neither the Trustee nor the Custodian independently confirms the fineness of the gold allocated to the Trust in connection with the creation of a Basket. The gold bullion allocated to the Trust by the Custodian may be different from the reported fineness or weight required by the LBMA’s standards for gold bars delivered in settlement of a gold trade (London Good Delivery Standards), the standards required by the Trust. If the Trustee nevertheless issues a Basket against such gold, and if the Custodian fails to satisfy its obligation to credit the Trust the amount of any deficiency, the Trust may suffer a loss.

 

Gold held in the Trust’s unallocated gold account and any Authorized Participant’s unallocated gold account is not segregated from the Custodian’s assets. If the Custodian becomes insolvent, its assets may not be adequate to satisfy a claim by the Trust or any Authorized Participant. In addition, in the event of the Custodian’s insolvency, there may be a delay and costs incurred in identifying the bullion held in the Trust’s allocated gold account.

 

Gold which is part of a deposit for a purchase order or part of a redemption distribution is held for a time in the Trust Unallocated Account and, previously or subsequently in, the Authorized Participant Unallocated Account of the purchasing or redeeming Authorized Participant. During those times, the Trust and the Authorized Participant, as the case may be, have no proprietary rights to any specific bars of gold held by the Custodian and are each an unsecured creditor of the Custodian with respect to the amount of gold held in such unallocated accounts. In addition, if the Custodian fails to allocate the Trust’s gold in a timely manner, in the proper amounts or otherwise in accordance with the terms of the Unallocated Account Agreement, or if a sub-custodian fails to so segregate gold held by it on behalf of the Trust, unallocated gold will not be segregated from the Custodian’s assets, and the Trust will be an unsecured creditor of the Custodian with respect to the amount so held in the event of the insolvency of the Custodian. In the event the Custodian becomes insolvent, the Custodian’s assets might not be adequate to satisfy a claim by the Trust or the Authorized Participant for the amount of gold held in their respective unallocated gold accounts.

 

In the case of the insolvency of the Custodian, a liquidator may seek to freeze access to the gold held in all of the accounts held by the Custodian, including the Trust Allocated Account. Although the Trust would be able to claim ownership of properly allocated gold, the Trust could incur expenses in connection with asserting such claims, and the assertion of such a claim by the liquidator could delay creations and redemptions of Baskets.

 

26 

 

 

In issuing Baskets, the Trustee relies on certain information received from the Custodian which is subject to confirmation after the Trustee has relied on the information. If such information turns out to be incorrect, Baskets may be issued in exchange for an amount of gold which is more or less than the amount of gold which is required to be deposited with the Trust.

 

The Custodian’s definitive records are prepared after the close of its business day. However, when issuing Baskets, the Trustee relies on information reporting the amount of gold credited to the Trust’s accounts which it receives from the Custodian during the business day and which is subject to correction during the preparation of the Custodian’s definitive records after the close of business. If the information relied upon by the Trustee is incorrect, the amount of gold actually received by the Trust may be more or less than the amount required to be deposited for the issuance of Baskets.

 

GENERAL RISKS 

 

The Trust relies on the information and technology systems of the Trustee, the Custodian, the Marketing Agent and, to a lesser degree, the Sponsor, which could be adversely affected by information systems interruptions, cybersecurity attacks or other disruptions which could have a material adverse effect on the Trust’s record keeping and operations.

 

The Custodian, the Trustee and the Marketing Agent depend upon information technology infrastructure, including network, hardware and software systems to conduct their business as it relates to the Trust. A cybersecurity incident, or a failure to protect their computer systems, networks and information against cybersecurity threats, could result in a loss of information and adversely impact their ability to conduct their business, including their business on behalf of the Trust. Despite implementation of network and other cybersecurity measures, their security measures may not be adequate to protect against all cybersecurity threats.

 

Uncertainty regarding the effects of Brexit could adversely affect the price of the Shares.

 

The United Kingdom left the European Union (the “EU”) (“Brexit”) on January 31, 2020, subject to a transitional period which ended December 31, 2020. During the transitional period, although the United Kingdom was no longer a member state of the EU, it remained subject to EU law and regulations as if it were still a member state. The United Kingdom and the EU were to negotiate the terms of their future trading relationship during the transitional period. On December 24, 2020, negotiators representing the United Kingdom and the EU came to a preliminary trade agreement, which was subsequently ratified by the UK Parliament. The trade agreement must also be ratified by the European Parliament.

 

The unavoidable uncertainties and events related to Brexit could increase taxes and costs of business and cause volatility in currency exchange rates and interest rates. Brexit could adversely affect the performance of contracts in existence at the date of Brexit and European, United Kingdom or worldwide political, regulatory, economic or market conditions and could contribute to instability in political institutions, regulatory agencies and financial markets. Brexit could also lead to legal uncertainty and politically divergent national laws and regulations as a new relationship between the United Kingdom and EU is defined and the United Kingdom determines which EU laws to replace or replicate. Any of these effects of Brexit, and others that cannot be anticipated, could adversely affect the price of the Shares. In addition, the risk that Standard Life Aberdeen plc, the parent of the Sponsor and which is headquartered in the United Kingdom, failed to adequately prepare for the end of Brexit’s transitional period could have significant customer, reputation and capital impacts for Standard Life Aberdeen plc and its subsidiaries, including those providing services to the Trust; however, Standard Life Aberdeen plc and its subsidiaries have detailed contingency planning in place to seek to manage the consequences of Brexit to the Trust and to avoid any disruption on the Trust and to the services they provide. Given the fluidity and complexity of the situation, we cannot provide assurance that the Trust will not be adversely impacted despite these preparations.

 

27 

 

 

The Trust as well as the Sponsor and its service providers are vulnerable to the effects of public health crises, including the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

 

The respiratory illness COVID-19 caused by a novel coronavirus has resulted in a global pandemic and major disruption to economies and markets around the world, including the United States. Financial markets have experienced extreme volatility trading in many instruments has been disrupted. Liquidity for many instruments has been greatly reduced for periods of time. Some interest rates are very low and in some cases yields are negative. Some sectors of the economy and individual issuers have experienced particularly large losses. These circumstances may continue for an extended period of time, and may continue to affect adversely the value and liquidity of the Trust's investments. The ultimate economic fallout from the pandemic, and the long-term impact on economies, markets, industries and individual issuers, including the Trust and its service providers, are not known. The information technology and other operational systems upon which the Trust’s service providers rely could be impaired and the ability of employees of the Trust’s service providers to perform essential tasks on behalf of the Trust could be disrupted. Governments and central banks, including the Federal Reserve in the U.S., have taken extraordinary and unprecedented actions to support local and global economies and the financial markets. The impact of these measures, and whether they will be effective to mitigate the economic and market disruption, will not be known for some time.

 

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments

 

None.

 

Item 2. Properties

 

Not applicable.

 

Item 3. Legal Proceedings

 

None

 

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosure

 

Not applicable.

 

28 

 

 

PART II

 

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

The Trust was formed on September 1, 2009 (the “Date of Inception”) following an initial deposit of gold. The Trust’s Shares have been listed on the NYSE Arca under the symbol SGOL since its initial public offering on September 9, 2009. The following tables set out the range of high and low closing prices for the Shares as reported for NYSE Arca transactions for each of the quarters during the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019:

 

Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2020: Quarter Ended

             
      High     Low  
March 31, 2020     $ 16.61     $ 14.12  
June 30, 2020     $ 17.14     $ 15.31  
September 30, 2020     $ 19.85     $ 17.05  
December 31, 2020     $ 18.76     $ 17.08  

 

Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2019: Quarter Ended(1)              
      High     Low  
March 31, 2019     $ 12.93     $ 12.35  
June 30, 2019     $ 13.71     $ 12.25  
September 30, 2019     $ 14.99     $ 13.34  
December 31, 2019     $ 14.62     $ 14.01  

 

(1) After the close of markets on November 1, 2019, the Trust effected a ten-for-one forward share split of the Shares issued by the Trust (the "Split"). The information presented attributable to periods prior to the Split has been adjusted to reflect the effects of the Split.

 

The number of outstanding Share of the Trust as of February 24, 2021 was 147,100,000.

 

Monthly Share Price

 

The following table sets forth, for each of the most recent six months, the high and low closing prices of the Shares, as reported for NYSE Arca transactions.

 

Month     High     Low  
August 2020     $ 19.85     $ 18.36  
September 2020     $ 18.95     $ 17.91  
October 2020     $ 18.54     $ 17.98  
November 2020     $ 18.76     $ 17.08  
December 2020     $ 18.28     $ 17.45  
January 2021     $ 18.73     $ 17.55  

 

29 

 

 

Issuer Purchase of Equity Securities

 

The Trust issues and redeems Shares only with Authorized Participants in exchange for gold, only in aggregations of 100,000 Shares, referred to as a Basket. A list of current Authorized Participants is available from the Sponsor or the Trustee and is included in Item 7 of this report. Although the Trust does not purchase Shares directly from its Shareholders, in connection with the redemption of Baskets, the Trust redeemed as follows during the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019:

 

Month     Total number of
Shares redeemed
    Average ounces of
gold per share
 
January 2020          
February 2020          
March 2020       5,700,000       0.0096  
April 2020              
May 2020              
June 2020              
July 2020              
August 2020              
September 2020       1,300,000       0.0096  
October 2020       1,900,000       0.0096  
November 2020       1,200,000       0.0096  
December 2020       2,400,000       0.0096  
Total       12,500,000       0.0096  

 

Month     Total number of
Shares redeemed
    Average ounces of
gold per share(1)
 
January 2019          
February 2019          
March 2019       2,000,000       0.0096  
April 2019       1,000,000       0.0096  
May 2019       2,000,000       0.0096  
June 2019              
July 2019              
August 2019              
September 2019       1,500,000       0.0096  
October 2019              
November 2019       1,300,000       0.0096  
December 2019              
Total       7,800,000       0.0096  

 

30 

 

 

(1) After the close of markets on November 1, 2019, the Trust effected a ten-for-one forward share split of the Shares issued by the Trust (the “Split”). In addition, effective November 4, 2019, the number of Shares in a block that constitutes a Basket increased from 50,000 Shares to 100,000 Shares (the “Basket Size Change”). The information presented attributable to periods prior to the Split and the Basket Size Change has been adjusted to reflect the effects of the Split and the Basket Size Change.

 

Item 6. Selected Financial Data

 

The following selected financial data for the reporting periods should be read in conjunction with the Trust’s financial statements and related notes and Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

 

    Year Ended
December 31, 2020
    Year Ended
December 31, 2019
    Year Ended
December 31, 2018
    Year Ended
December 31, 2017
    Year Ended
December 31, 2016
 
(Amounts in 000’s of US$, except for Share and per Share data)                                        
Total assets   $ 2,652,891     $ 1,196,068     $ 846,835     $ 1,048,326     $ 935,268  
Total gain/(loss) on gold   $ 367,389     $ 155,359     $ (18,588 )   $ 110,859     $ 53,946  
Change in net assets from operations   $ 363,748     $ 153,679     $ (22,156 )   $ 106,862     $ 50,022  
Weighted average number of Shares(1)     124,112,022       73,381,967       77,198,630       83,869,863       82,506,831  
Net increase / (decrease) in net assets per Share(1)   $ 2.93     $ 2.09     $ (0.29 )   $ 1.27     $ 0.61  
Net cash provided by operating activities   $     $     $     $     $  

 

(1) After the close of markets on November 1, 2019, the Trust effected a ten-for-one forward share split of the Shares issued by the Trust (the “Split”). The information presented attributable to periods prior to the Split has been adjusted to reflect the effects of the Split.

 

Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

This information should be read in conjunction with the financial statements and notes to the financial statements included with this report. The discussion and analysis that follows may contain statements that relate to future events or future performance. In some cases, such forward-looking statements can be identified by terminology such as “may,” “should,” “expect,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. We remind readers that forward-looking statements are merely predictions and therefore inherently subject to uncertainties and other factors and involve known and unknown risks that could cause the actual results, performance, levels of activity, or our achievements, or industry results, to be materially different from any future results, performance, levels of activity, or our achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date hereof. The Trust undertakes no obligation to publicly release any revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

 

31 

 

 

Introduction.

 

The Aberdeen Standard Gold ETF Trust (the “Trust”) is a trust formed under the laws of the State of New York. The Trust does not have any officers, directors, or employees, and is administered by The Bank of New York Mellon (the “Trustee”) acting as trustee pursuant to the Depositary Trust Agreement (the “Trust Agreement”) between the Trustee and Aberdeen Standard Investments ETFs Sponsor LLC, the sponsor of the Trust (the “Sponsor”). The Trust issues Shares representing fractional undivided beneficial interests in its net assets. The assets of the Trust consist of gold bullion held by a custodian as an agent of the Trust and responsible only to the Trustee.

 

The Trust is a passive investment vehicle and the objective of the Trust is for the value of each Share to approximately reflect, at any given time, the price of the gold bullion owned by the Trust, less the Trust’s liabilities (anticipated to be principally for accrued operating expenses), divided by the number of outstanding Shares. The Trust does not engage in any activities designed to obtain a profit from, or ameliorate losses caused by, changes in the price of gold.

 

The Trust issues and redeems Shares only in exchange for gold, only in aggregations of 100,000 Shares effective November 4, 2019 (prior to November 4, 2019, the number of Shares that constituted a Basket for creations and redemptions was 50,000 Shares) or integral multiples thereof (each, a “Basket”), and only in transactions with registered broker-dealers or other securities market participants not required to register as broker-dealers, such as a bank or other financial institution, that (1) are participants in DTC and (2) have previously entered into an agreement with the Trust governing the terms and conditions of such issuance (such dealers, the “Authorized Participants”). As of the date of this annual report the Authorized Participants that have signed an Authorized Participant Agreement with the Trust are Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, HSBC Securities (USA) Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corp., Mizuho Securities USA LLC, Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc., Scotia Capital (USA) Inc., UBS Securities LLC and Virtu Financial BD, LLC.

 

Shares of the Trust trade on the NYSE Arca under the symbol “SGOL”

 

Investing in the Shares does not insulate the investor from certain risks, including price volatility. The following table illustrates the movement in the net asset value (“NAV”) of the Shares against the corresponding gold price (per 1/100 of an oz. of gold) since inception:

 

NAV per Share vs. Gold Price from the September 9, 2009 (the Date of Inception) to December 31, 2020(1)

 

(GRAPHIC) 

 

(1) After the close of markets on November 1, 2019, the Trust effected a ten-for-one forward share split of the Shares issued by the Trust (the “Split”). The information presented attributable to periods prior to the Split has been adjusted to reflect the effects of the Split.

 

The divergence of the NAV per Share from the gold price over time reflects the cumulative effect of the Trust expenses that arise if an investment had been held since inception.

 

Critical Accounting Policy

 

The financial statements and accompanying notes are prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. The preparation of these financial statements relies on estimates and assumptions that impact the Trust’s financial position and results of operations. These estimates and assumptions affect the Trust’s application of accounting policies. Below we describe the valuation of gold bullion, a critical accounting policy that we believe is important to understanding the results of operations and financial position. In addition, please refer to Note 2 to the Financial Statements for further discussion of accounting policies.

 

32 

 

 

Valuation of Gold

 

Gold is held by the Custodian on behalf of the Trust. Gold is recorded at fair value. The cost of gold is determined according to the average cost method and the fair value is based on the LBMA PM Gold Price. Realized gains and losses on transfers of gold, or gold distributed for the redemption of Shares, are calculated on a trade date basis as the difference between the fair value and cost of gold transferred.

 

   

December 31, 2020 

   

December 31, 2019 

   

December 31, 2018 

 
(Amounts in 000’s of US$)                        
Investment in gold - cost   $ 2,135,209     $ 1,011,343     $ 786,969  
Unrealized gain on investment in gold     517,682       181,808       35,144  
Investment in gold - fair value   $ 2,652,891     $ 1,193,151     $ 822,113  

 

Inspection of Gold

 

Under the Custody Agreements, the Trustee, the Sponsor and the Sponsor’s auditors and inspectors may, only up to twice a year, visit the premises of the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodian for the purpose of examining the Trust’s gold and certain related records maintained by the Custodian. Under the Allocated Account Agreement, the Custodian agreed to procure similar inspection rights from the Zurich Sub-Custodian. Visits by auditors and inspectors to the Zurich Sub-Custodian’s facilities will be arranged through the Custodian. Other than with respect to the Zurich Sub-Custodian, the Trustee and the Sponsor have no right to visit the premises of any sub-custodian for the purposes of examining the Trust’s gold or any records maintained by the sub-custodian, and no sub-custodian is obligated to cooperate in any review the Trustee or the Sponsor may wish to conduct of the facilities, procedures, records or creditworthiness of such sub-custodian.

 

The Sponsor has exercised its right to visit the Custodian and the Zurich Sub-Custodian, in order to examine the gold and the records maintained by them. Inspections were conducted by Inspectorate International Limited, a leading commodity inspection and testing company retained by the Sponsor, as of August 14, 2020. Due to unprecedented social lock-down policies implemented in the UK and Switzerland to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, neither the Sponsor, nor Inspectorate, were able to perform a physical inspection of the Trust's gold at December 31, 2020. In lieu of a physical inspection, the Sponsor performed alternative procedures to verify the gold held by the Trust at December 31, 2020. These procedures included confirmation of the gold bar list and total ounces of gold held by the Custodian at December 31, 2020, and an independent recalculation of ounces of gold for each creation or redemption transaction from August 14, 2020, the date of the last physical inspection, through December 31, 2020. The Sponsor and Inspectorate also virtually inspected a selection of gold bars held by the Custodian on behalf of the Trust, verifying the weight of the bars and that the serial numbers of the bars selected matched the records of the Trust.

 

Liquidity

 

The Trust is not aware of any trends, demands, conditions, events or uncertainties that are reasonably likely to result in material changes to its liquidity needs. In exchange for the Sponsor’s Fee, the Sponsor has agreed to assume most of the expenses incurred by the Trust. As a result, the only expense of the Trust during the period covered by this report was the Sponsor’s Fee. The Trust’s only source of liquidity is its transfers and sales of gold.

 

The Trustee will, at the direction of the Sponsor or in its own discretion, sell the Trust’s gold as necessary to pay the Trust’s expenses not otherwise assumed by the Sponsor. The Trustee will not sell gold to pay the Sponsor’s Fee but will pay the Sponsor’s Fee through in-kind transfers of gold to the Sponsor. At December 31, 2020 and 2019, the Trust did not have any cash balances.

 

Review of Financial Results

 

Financial Highlights

 

    Year Ended
December 31, 2020
    Year Ended
December 31, 2019
    Year Ended
December 31, 2018
 
(Amounts in 000’s of US$)                        
Total gain/(loss) on gold   $ 367,389     $ 155,359     $ (18,588 )
Net change in assets from operations   $ 363,748     $ 153,679     $ (22,156 )
Net cash provided by operating activities   $     $     $  

 

33 

 

 

The year ended December 31, 2020

 

The net asset value (“NAV”) of the Trust is obtained by subtracting the Trust’s expenses and liabilities on any day from the value of the gold owned by the Trust on that day; the NAV per Share is obtained by dividing the NAV of the Trust on a given day by the number of Shares outstanding on that day.

 

The Trust’s NAV increased from $1,195,896,624 at December 31, 2019 to $ 2,652,511,503 at December 31, 2020, a 121.80% increase for the year. The increase in the Trust’s NAV resulted primarily from an increase in the price per ounce of gold, which rose 24.61% from $1,514.75 at December 31, 2019 to $1,887.60 at December 31, 2020 and an increase in outstanding Shares, which rose from 82,000,000 Shares at December 31, 2019 to 146,200,000 Shares at December 31, 2020, a result of 76,700,000 Shares (767 Baskets) being created and 12,500,000 Shares (125 Baskets) being redeemed during the year1.

 

The NAV per Share increased 24.42% from $14.58 at December 31, 2019 to $18.14 at December 31, 2020. The Trust’s NAV per Share rose slightly less than the price per ounce of gold on a percentage basis due to the Sponsor’s Fee, which was $3,640,527 for the year, or 0.17% of the Trust’s ANAV.

 

The NAV per Share of $19.88 at August 6, 2020 was the highest during the year, compared with a low of $14.19 at March 19, 2020.

 

The increase in net assets from operations for the year ended December 31, 2020 was $363,748,468, resulting from a realized gain of $642,860 on the transfer of gold to pay expenses, a realized gain of $30,872,826 on gold distributed for the redemption of Shares, a change in unrealized gain on investment of gold of $335,873,309, offset by the Sponsor’s Fees of $3,640,527. Other than the Sponsor’s Fee, the Trust had no expenses during the year ended December 31, 2020.

 

The year ended December 31, 2019

 

The Trust’s NAV increased from $846,715,993 at December 31, 2018 to $1,195,896,624 at December 31, 2019, a 41.24% increase for the year. The increase in the Trust’s NAV resulted primarily from an increase in the price per ounce of gold, which rose 18.19% from $1,281.65 at December 31, 2018 to $1,514.75 at December 31, 2019 and an increase in outstanding Shares, which rose from 68,500,000 Shares at December 31, 2018 to 82,000,000 Shares at December 31, 2019, a result of 21,300,000 Shares (213 Baskets) being created and 7,800,000 Shares (78 Baskets) being redeemed during the year1.

 

The NAV per Share increased 17.95% from $12.36 at December 31, 2018 to $14.58 at December 31, 2019. The Trust’s NAV per Share rose slightly less than the price per ounce of gold on a percentage basis due to the Sponsor’s Fee, which was $1,680,258 for the year, or 0.17% of the Trust's ANAV.

 

The NAV per Share of $14.89 at September 4, 2019 was the highest during the year, compared with a low of $12.24 at April 23, 2019.

 

The increase in net assets from operations for the year ended December 31, 2019 was $153,678,908, resulting from a realized gain of $154,397 on the transfer of gold to pay expenses, a realized gain of $8,540,847 on gold distributed for the redemption of Shares, a change in unrealized gain on investment of gold of $146,663,922, offset by the Sponsor’s Fees of $1,680,258. Other than the Sponsor’s Fee, the Trust had no expenses during the year ended December 31, 2019.

 

The year ended December 31, 2018 

 

The Trust’s NAV decreased from $1,047,978,657 at December 31, 2017 to $846,715,993 at December 31, 2018, a 19.20% decrease for the year. The decrease in the Trust’s NAV resulted primarily from a decrease in the price per ounce of gold, which fell 1.15% from $1,296.50 at December 31, 2017 to $1,281.65 at December 31, 2018 and a decrease in outstanding Shares, which fell from 83,500,000 Shares at December 31, 2017 to 68,500,000 Shares at December 31, 2018, a result of 12,500,000 Shares (125 Baskets) being created and 27,500,000 Shares (275 Baskets) being redeemed during the year1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 After the close of markets on November 1, 2019, the Trust effected a ten-for-one forward share split of the Shares issued by the Trust (the “Split”). In addition, effective November 4, 2019, the number of Shares in a block that constitutes a Basket increased from 50,000 Shares to 100,000 Shares (the “Basket Size Change”). The information presented attributable to periods prior to the Split and the Basket Size Change has been adjusted to reflect the effects of the Split and the Basket Size Change.

 

34 

 

 

The NAV per Share decreased 1.51% from $12.55 at December 31, 2017 to $12.36 at December 31, 2018. The Trust’s NAV per Share fell slightly more than the price per ounce of gold on a percentage basis due to the Sponsor’s Fee, which was $3,567,948 for the year, or, effective December 1, 2018, 0.17% of the Trust’s ANAV (prior to December 1, 2018, the Sponsor’s Fee was 0.39%).

 

The NAV per Share of $13.11 at January 25, 2018 was the highest during the year, compared with a low of $11.38 at August 17, 2018.

 

The decrease in net assets from operations for the year ended December 31, 2018 was $22,154,688, resulting from a realized gain of $158,980 on the transfer of gold to pay expenses and a realized gain of $10,687,359 on gold distributed for the redemption of Shares, offset by a change in unrealized loss on investment of gold of $29,433,079 and the Sponsor’s Fees of $3,567,948. Other than the Sponsor’s Fee, the Trust had no expenses during the year ended December 31, 2018.

 

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

 

The Trust is not a party to any off-balance sheet arrangements.

 

35

 

 

Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk

 

The Trust Agreement does not authorize the Trustee to borrow for payment of the Trust’s ordinary expenses. The Trust does not engage in transactions in foreign currencies which could expose the Trust or holders of Shares to any foreign currency related market risk. The Trust invests in no derivative financial instruments and has no foreign operations or long-term debt instruments..

 

Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data (Unaudited)

 

Quarterly Income Statements

 

Year Ended December 31, 2020

 

    Three months ended     Year ended  
(Amounts in 000’s of US$, except for Share and per Share data)   March 31     June 30     September 30     December 31     December 31  
EXPENSES                              
Sponsor’s Fee   $ 588     $ 808     $ 1,102     $ 1,143     $ 3,641  
Total expenses     588       808       1,102       1,143       3,641  
                                         
Net investment loss     (588 )     (808 )     (1,102 )     (1,143 )     (3,641 )
                                         
REALIZED AND UNREALIZED GAINS / (LOSSES)                                        
Realized gain on gold transferred to pay expenses     89       120       208       226       643  
Realized gain / (loss) on gold distributed for the redemption of Shares     9,417             4,384       17,072       30,873  
Change in unrealized gain on investment in gold     59,879       164,597       130,063       (18,666 )     335,873  
Total gain/(loss) on investment in gold     69,385       164,717       134,655       (1,368 )     367,389  
                                         
Change in net assets from operations   $ 68,797     $ 163,909     $ 133,553     $ (2,511 )   $ 363,748  
                                         
Net increase in net assets per Share   $ 0.76     $ 1.42     $ 0.94     $ (0.02)     $ 2.93  
                                         
Weighted average number of Shares     90,987,912       115,749,451       142,115,217       147,114,565       124,112,022  

 

36 

 

 

Year Ended December 31, 2019

 

    Three months ended     Year ended  
(Amounts in 000’s of US$, except for Share and per Share data)   March 31     June 30     September 30     December 31     December 31  
EXPENSES                              
Sponsor’s Fee   $ 373     $ 374     $ 434     $ 499     $ 1,680  
Total expenses     373       374       434       499       1,680  
                                         
Net investment loss     (373 )     (374 )     (434 )     (499 )     (1,680 )
                                         
REALIZED AND UNREALIZED GAINS / (LOSSES)                                        
Realized gain on gold transferred to pay expenses     19       17       52       66       154  
Realized gain / (loss) on gold distributed for the redemption of Shares     1,430       1,341       3,508       2,262       8,541  
Change in unrealized gain on investment in gold     7,609       72,906       46,608       19,541       146,664  
Total gain on investment in gold     9,058       74,264       50,168       21,869       155,359  
                                         
Change in net assets from operations   $ 8,685     $ 73,890     $ 49,734     $ 21,370     $ 153,679  
                                         
Net increase in net assets per Share(1)   $ 0.12     $ 1.07     $ 0.69     $ 0.26     $ 2.09  
                                         
Weighted average number of Shares(1)     70,911,111       68,802,198       72,559,783       81,204,348       73,381,967  

 

(1) After the close of markets on November 1, 2019, the Trust effected a ten-for-one forward share split of the Shares issued by the Trust (the “Split”). The information presented attributable to periods prior to the Split has been adjusted to reflect the effects of the Split.

 

Note: Quarterly balances may not add to totals due to independent rounding.

 

The financial statements required by Regulation S-X, together with the report of the Trust’s independent registered public accounting firm appear on pages F-1 to F-13 of this filing.

 

Item 9. Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

None.

 

Item 9A. Controls and Procedures

 

Conclusion Regarding the Effectiveness of Disclosure Controls and Procedures

 

The Trust maintains disclosure controls and procedures that are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed in its Exchange Act reports is recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods specified in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s rules and forms, and that such information is accumulated and communicated to the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the Sponsor, and to the audit committee, as appropriate, to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosure.

37 

 

 

Under the supervision and with the participation of the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer of the Sponsor, the Sponsor conducted an evaluation of the Trust’s disclosure controls and procedures, as defined under Exchange Act Rules 13a-15(e) and 15d-15(e). Based on this evaluation, the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer of the Sponsor concluded that, as of December 31, 2020, the Trust’s disclosure controls and procedures were effective.

 

Internal controls over financial reporting have been maintained throughout the Trust’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2020. There have been no changes that have materially affected, or are reasonably likely to materially affect, the Trust’s or Sponsor’s internal control over financial reporting.

 

Management’s Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting

 

The Sponsor’s management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting, as defined under Exchange Act Rules 13a-15(f) and 15d-15(f). The Trust’s internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. Internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that:

 

(1)       pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the Trust’s assets;

 

(2)       provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that the Trust’s receipts and expenditures are being made only in accordance with appropriate authorizations; and

 

(3)       provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the Trust’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.

 

Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become ineffective because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.

 

The Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the Sponsor assessed the effectiveness of the Trust’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020. In making this assessment, they used the criteria set forth by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) in Internal Control—Integrated Framework (2013). Their assessment included an evaluation of the design of the Trust’s internal control over financial reporting and testing of the operational effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting. Based on their assessment and those criteria, the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the Sponsor concluded that the Trust maintained effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020.

 

KPMG LLP, the independent registered public accounting firm that audited and reported on the financial statements included in this Form 10-K, as stated in their report which is included herein, issued an attestation report on the effectiveness of the Trust’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020.

 

38 

 

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

 

To the Sponsor, Trustee and Shareholders
Aberdeen Standard Gold ETF Trust:

Opinion on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting

We have audited Aberdeen Standard Gold ETF Trust’s (the Trust) internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020, based on criteria established in Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission. In our opinion, the Trust maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020, based on criteria established in Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission.

We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) (PCAOB), the statements of assets and liabilities of the Trust, including the schedules of investments, as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, the related statements of operations and changes in net assets for each of the years in the three-year period ended December 31, 2020, and the related notes (collectively, the financial statements) and the financial highlights for each of the years in the three-year period ended December 31, 2020, and our report dated February 26, 2021 expressed an unqualified opinion on those financial statements and financial highlights.

Basis for Opinion

The Sponsor’s management is responsible for maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting and for its assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting, included in the accompanying Management’s Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the Trust’s internal control over financial reporting based on our audit. We are a public accounting firm registered with the PCAOB and are required to be independent with respect to the Trust in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.

We conducted our audit in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether effective internal control over financial reporting was maintained in all material respects. Our audit of internal control over financial reporting included obtaining an understanding of internal control over financial reporting, assessing the risk that a material weakness exists, and testing and evaluating the design and operating effectiveness of internal control based on the assessed risk. Our audit also included performing such other procedures as we considered necessary in the circumstances. We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.

Definition and Limitations of Internal Control Over Financial Reporting

A company’s internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements and financial highlights for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. A company’s internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that (1) pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the company; (2) provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements and financial highlights in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the company are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the company; and (3) provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the company’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements and financial highlights.

Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.

/s/ KPMG LLP

New York, New York
February 26, 2021

39 

 

 

Item 9B. Other Information

 

Not applicable.

 

40 

 

 

PART III

 

Item 10. Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

The Trust has no directors or executive officers.  The biographies of the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Sponsor and the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of the Sponsor are set out below:

 

Christopher Demetriou – President and Chief Executive Officer

 

Mr. Demetriou is Chief Executive Officer – Americas for ASII. Mr. Demetriou is a member of the Group Executive Committee as well as several other committees within the organization. Mr. Demetriou is based in Philadelphia and is responsible for Aberdeen Standard Investments’ operations across North and South America. Mr. Demetriou previously held the position of Deputy Chief Executive Officer – Americas for ASII from December 2016 to April 2018, Chief Financial Officer – Americas from January 2016 to December 2016, and Head of Finance – Americas from June 2014 to January 2016. Mr. Demetriou joined ASII in June 2014, as a result of Aberdeen’s acquisition of SVG, a FTSE 250 private equity investor based in London. While at SVG, from June 2010 to June 2014, Mr. Demetriou was Group Financial Controller and Deputy Head of Strategy. Prior to joining SVG, Mr. Demetriou worked at Ernst and Young, specializing in Asset and Wealth Management audits and transactions. Mr. Demetriou is a Chartered Accountant and has a BA in Politics from the University of York in England.

 

Andrea Melia – Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

 

Ms. Melia is Vice President and Head of Fund Operations, Traditional Assets – Americas for ASII. Ms. Melia has managed the fund administration team since joining ASII in September 2009. Prior to joining ASII, Ms. Melia was Director of fund administration and accounting oversight for Princeton Administrators LLC, a division of BlackRock Inc. and had worked with Princeton Administrators since 1992. Ms. Melia holds a BS in Accounting from University of Scranton and a MBA from Rider University.

 

As described under Item 1 above, ASII is the parent of the Sponsor.

 

Item 11. Executive Compensation

 

The Trust has no directors or executive officers. The only ordinary expense paid by the Trust is the Sponsor’s Fee.

 

Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

 

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners

 

There are no persons known by the Trust to own directly or indirectly beneficially more than 5% of the outstanding Shares of the Trust.

 

Security Ownership of Management

 

Not applicable.

 

Change in Control

 

Neither the Sponsor nor the Trustee knows of any arrangements which may subsequently result in a change in control of the Trust.

 

41 

 

 

Item 13. Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

The Trust has no directors or executive officers.

 

42 

 

 

Item 14. Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

Fees for services performed by KPMG LLP for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019

 

    December 31, 2020     December 31, 2019  
Audit fees – KPMG   $ 77,825     $ 72,900  
Audit related fees – KPMG      —       10,000  
    $ 77,825     $ 82,900  

 

Audit Fees are fees paid by the Sponsor to KPMG LLP for professional services for the audit of the Trust’s financial statements included in the Form 10-K and review of financial statements included in the Form 10-Qs, and for services that are normally provided by the accountants in connection with regulatory filings or engagements. Audit Related Fees are paid by the Sponsor to KPMG LLP for assurance and related services that are reasonably related to the performance of the audit or review of the Trust’s financial statements. These services include the accountant providing a consent letter related to the Trust's registration statement filing.

 

Pre-Approval Policies and Procedures

 

As referenced in Item 10 above, the Trust has no board of directors, and as a result, has no pre-approval policies or procedures with respect to fees paid to KPMG LLP. Such determinations are made by the Sponsor.

 

43 

 

 

PART IV

 

Item 15. Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

 

1. Financial Statements

 

See Index to Financial Statements on Page F-1 for a list of the financial statements being filed herein.

 

2. Financial Statement Schedules

 

Schedules have been omitted since they are either not required, not applicable, or the information has otherwise been included.

 

3. Exhibits

 

Exhibit No. Description
4.1(a) Depositary Trust Agreement, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.1 filed with Registration Statement No. 333-158221 on September 1, 2009
   
4.1(b) Amendment to the Depositary Trust Agreement effective October 1, 2018, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.1 filed with Registration Statement No. 333-234637 on November 12, 2019
   
4.1(c) Second Amendment to the Depositary Trust Agreement effective December 1, 2018, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.1 filed with the Trust’s Current Report on Form 8-K on December 6, 2018
   
4.1(d) Third Amendment to the Depository Trust Agreement effective June 20, 2019, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.1 filed with the Trust’s Current Report on Form 8-K on June 13, 2019
   
4.2 Form of Authorized Participant Agreement, effective as of September 5, 2017, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.2 filed with the Trust’s Annual Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2017.
   
4.3 Global Certificate, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.3 filed with Registration Statement No. 333-158221 on September 1, 2009
   
10.1(a) Allocated Account Agreement, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 10.1 filed with Registration Statement No. 333-158221 on September 1, 2009
   
10.1(b) Amendment to the Allocated Account Agreement effective October 1, 2018, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 10.1 filed with the Trust’s Current Report on Form 8-K on October 5, 2018
   
10.1(c) Amendment to the Allocated Account Agreement and the Unallocated Account Agreement effective June 29, 2019, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 10.1 field with the Trust’s Current Report on Form 8-K on June 13, 2019
   
10.1(d) Second amendment to the Allocated Account Agreement effective June 5, 2020 incorporated by reference to Exhibit 10.1 filed with the Trust’s Current Report on Form 8-K on June 11, 2020
   
10.2(a) Unallocated Account Agreement, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 10.2 filed with Registration Statement No. 333-158221 on September 1, 2009
   
10.2(b) Amendment to the Unallocated Account Agreement effective October 1, 2018, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 10.2 filed with the Trust’s Current Report on Form 8-K on October 5, 2018
   
10.2(c) Second amendment to the Unallocated Account Agreement effective June 5, 2020 incorporated by reference to Exhibit 10.2 filed with the Trust’s Current Report on Form 8-K on June 11, 2020
   

44 

 

 

10.3 Depository Agreement, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 10.3 filed with Registration Statement No. 333-158221 on September 1, 2009
   
10.4(a) Marketing Agent Agreement, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 10.4 filed with Registration Statement No. 333-158221 on September 1, 2009
   
10.4(b) Novation of and Amendment No. 1 to the Marketing Agent Agreement effective as of October 1, 2018
   
23.1 Consent of KPMG LLP, Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
   
31.1 Chief Executive Officer’s Certificate, pursuant to Section 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002  
   
31.2 Chief Financial Officer’s Certificate, pursuant to Section 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002  
   
32.1 Chief Executive Officer’s Certificate, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 1350, as adopted pursuant to Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002  
   
32.2 Chief Financial Officer’s Certificate, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 1350, as adopted pursuant to Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002  
   
101 The following financial statements from the Trust’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020, formatted in Inline XBRL: (i) Statements of Assets and Liabilities, (ii) Statements of Operations, (iii) Statements of Changes in Net Assets, and (iv) Notes to the Financial Statements.
   
101.SCH Inline XBRL Taxonomy Extension Schema Document
   
101.CAL Inline XBRL Taxonomy Extension Calculation Document
   
101.DEF Inline XBRL Taxonomy Extension Definitions Document
   
101.LAB Inline XBRL Taxonomy Extension Labels Document
   
101.PRE Inline XBRL Taxonomy Extension Presentation Document
   
104 The cover page from the Trust’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020, formatted in Inline XBRL (included as Exhibit 101).

 

Item 16. Form 10-K Summary

 

Not applicable.

 

45 

 

 

ABERDEEN STANDARD GOLD ETF TRUST
FINANCIAL STATEMENTS AS OF DECEMBER 31, 2020
INDEX

 

  Page
   
Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm F-2
   
Statements of Assets and Liabilities at December 31, 2020 and 2019 F-3
   
Schedules of Investments at December 31, 2020 and 2019 F-4
   
Statements of Operations for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018 F-5
   
Statements of Changes in Net Assets for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018 F-6
   
Financial Highlights for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018 F-7
   
Notes to the Financial Statements F-8

 

 F-1

 

 

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

 

To the Sponsor, Trustee and Shareholders
Aberdeen Standard Gold ETF Trust:

Opinion on the Financial Statements

We have audited the accompanying statements of assets and liabilities of Aberdeen Standard Gold ETF Trust (the Trust), including the schedules of investments, as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, the related statements of operations and changes in net assets for each of the years in the three-year period ended December 31, 2020, and the related notes (collectively, the financial statements) and the financial highlights for each of the years in the three-year period ended December 31, 2020. In our opinion, the financial statements and financial highlights present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Trust as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, and the results of its operations and the changes in its net assets, for each of the years in the three-year period ended December 31, 2020, and the financial highlights for each of the years in the three-year period ended December 31, 2020, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles.

We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States) (PCAOB), the Trust’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020, based on criteria established in Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission, and our report dated February 26, 2021 expressed an unqualified opinion on the effectiveness of the Trust’s internal control over financial reporting.

Basis for Opinion

These financial statements and financial highlights are the responsibility of the Sponsor’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements and financial highlights based on our audits. We are a public accounting firm registered with the PCAOB and are required to be independent with respect to the Trust in accordance with the U.S. federal securities laws and the applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the PCAOB.

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the PCAOB. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements and financial highlights are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud. Our audits included performing procedures to assess the risks of material misstatement of the financial statements and financial highlights, whether due to error or fraud, and performing procedures that respond to those risks. Such procedures included examining, on a test basis, evidence regarding the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements and financial highlights. Our audits also included evaluating the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements and financial highlights. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

Critical Audit Matter

The critical audit matter communicated below is a matter arising from the current period audit of the financial statements and financial highlights that was communicated or required to be communicated to the audit committee and that: (1) relates to accounts or disclosures that are material to the financial statements and the financial highlights and (2) involved our especially challenging, subjective, or complex judgment. The communication of a critical audit matter does not alter in any way our opinion on the financial statements and the financial highlights, taken as a whole, and we are not, by communicating the critical audit matter below, providing a separate opinion on the critical audit matter or on the accounts or disclosures to which it relates.

Evaluation of the Evidence Pertaining to the Existence of the Gold Holdings

As presented on the December 31, 2020 schedule of investments, the fair value of the Trust’s investment in gold was $2.65 billion, representing 100% of the Trust’s total assets, and 1,405,430.5 ounces of gold holdings. The investment in gold was held by a third-party custodian (the custodian).

We identified the evaluation of the evidence pertaining to the existence of the gold holdings as a critical audit matter. Given the nature and volume of the gold holdings, subjective auditor judgment was required to evaluate the extent and nature of evidence obtained to assess the existence of gold held by the custodian.

The following are the primary procedures we performed to address this critical audit matter. We evaluated the design and tested the operating effectiveness of certain internal controls over the Trust’s gold holdings process, including controls over (1) the comparison of the Trust’s records of gold held to the custodian’s records, (2) the approval of gold deposits and withdrawals by the trustee of the Trust and (3) the roll forward of gold holdings from the date of the Trust’s most recent physical inspection through December 31, 2020. We obtained a schedule directly from the custodian of the Trust’s gold holdings held by the custodian as of December 31, 2020. We compared the total ounces on such schedule to the Trust’s record of gold holdings. We also tested the Trust’s roll forward of gold holdings from August 14, 2020 (the date of the Trust’s most recent physical inspection performed at the custodian’s locations by a third party engaged by the Trust’s sponsor (the inspector)) through December 31, 2020 by (1) agreeing the Trust’s records of gold holdings as of the last inspection date to the inspector’s and/or custodian’s records, (2) agreeing gold holdings transactions to order confirmations and trade tickets, and (3) comparing the Trust’s expected holdings to the schedule obtained directly from the custodian of the Trust’s gold holdings at December 31, 2020.

We have served as the Trust’s auditor since 2015.

/s/ KPMG LLP

New York, New York
February 26, 2021

 F-2

 

 

ABERDEEN STANDARD GOLD ETF TRUST

 

Statements of Assets and Liabilities

At December 31, 2020 and 2019

 

    December 31, 2020     December 31, 2019  
(Amounts in 000’s of US$, except for Share and per Share data)                
ASSETS                
Investment in gold (cost: December 31, 2020: $2,135,209; December 31, 2019: $1,011,343)   $ 2,652,891     $ 1,193,151  
Gold receivable           2,917  
Total assets     2,652,891       1,196,068  
                 
LIABILITIES                
Fees payable to Sponsor     379       171  
Total liabilities     379       171  
                 
NET ASSETS(1)   $ 2,652,512     $ 1,195,897  

 

(1) Authorized share capital is unlimited with no par value per Share. Shares issued and outstanding at December 31, 2020 were 146,200,000 and at December 31, 2019 were 82,000,000. Net asset values per Share at December 31, 2020 and December 31, 2019 were $18.14 and $14.58, respectively.

 

See Notes to the Financial Statements 

 

 F-3

 

 

ABERDEEN STANDARD GOLD ETF TRUST

 

Schedules of Investments

At December 31, 2020 and 2019

 

    December 31, 2020  
Description   oz     Cost     Fair Value     % of Net Assets  
Investment in gold (in 000’s of US$, except for oz and percentage data)
Gold     1,405,430.5     $ 2,135,209     $ 2,652,891       100.01 %
Total investment in gold     1,405,430.5     $ 2,135,209     $ 2,652,891       100.01 %
Less liabilities                     (379 )     (0.01 )%
Net Assets                   $ 2,652,512       100.00 %

 

 

    December 31, 2019  
Description   oz     Cost     Fair Value     % of Net Assets  
Investment in gold (in 000’s of US$, except for oz and percentage data)
Gold     787,688.3     $ 1,011,343     $ 1,193,151       99.77 %
Total investment in gold     787,688.3     $ 1,011,343     $ 1,193,151       99.77 %
Other assets less liabilities                     2,746       0.23 %
Net Assets                   $ 1,195,897       100.00 %

 

See Notes to the Financial Statements

 

 F-4

 

 

ABERDEEN STANDARD GOLD ETF TRUST

 

Statements of Operations

For the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019, and 2018

 

    Year Ended
December 31, 2020
    Year Ended
December 31, 2019
    Year Ended
December 31, 2018
 
(Amounts in 000’s of US$, except for Share and per Share data)                        
EXPENSES                        
Sponsor’s Fee   $ 3,641     $ 1,680     $ 3,568  
Total expenses     3,641       1,680       3,568  
                         
Net investment loss     (3,641 )     (1,680 )     (3,568 )
                         
REALIZED AND UNREALIZED GAINS / (LOSSES)                        
Realized gain on gold transferred to pay expenses     643       154       159  
Realized gain on gold distributed for the redemption of Shares     30,873       8,541       10,687  
Change in unrealized gain / (loss) on investment in gold     335,873       146,664       (29,434 )
Total gain / (loss) on investment in gold     367,389       155,359       (18,588 )
                         
Change in net assets from operations   $ 363,748     $ 153,679     $ (22,156 )
                         
Net increase / (decrease) in net assets per Share(1)   $ 2.93     $ 2.09     $ (0.29 )
                         
Weighted average number of Shares(1)     124,112,022       73,381,967       77,198,630  

 

(1) After the close of markets on November 1, 2019, the Trust effected a ten-for-one forward share split of the Shares issued by the Trust (the “Split”). The information presented attributable to periods prior to the Split has been adjusted to reflect the effects of the Split.

 

See Notes to the Financial Statements 

 

 F-5

 

 

ABERDEEN STANDARD GOLD ETF TRUST

 

Statements of Changes in Net Assets

For the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018

 

                 
    Year Ended December 31, 2020  
(Amounts in 000’s of US$, except for Share data)   Shares     Amount  
Opening balance at January 1, 2020     82,000,000     $ 1,195,897  
Net investment loss             (3,641 )
Realized gain on investment in gold             31,516  
Change in unrealized gain on investment in gold             335,873  
Creations     76,700,000       1,296,036  
Redemptions     (12,500,000 )     (203,169 )
Closing balance at December 31, 2020     146,200,000     $ 2,652,512  

 

               
    Year Ended December 31, 2019  
(Amounts in 000’s of US$, except for Share data)   Shares(1)     Amount  
Opening balance at January 1, 2019     68,500,000     $ 846,716  
Net investment loss             (1,680 )
Realized gain on investment in gold             8,695  
Change in unrealized gain on investment in gold             146,664  
Creations     21,300,000       297,717  
Redemptions     (7,800,000 )     (102,215 )
Closing balance at December 31, 2019     82,000,000     $ 1,195,897  

 

 

               
    Year Ended December 31, 2018  
(Amounts in 000’s of US$, except for Share data)   Shares(1)     Amount  
Opening balance at January 1, 2018     83,500,000     $ 1,047,979  
Net investment loss             (3,568 )
Realized gain on investment in gold             10,846  
Change in unrealized (loss) on investment in gold             (29,434 )
Creations     12,500,000