Translation from an article in the German Financial Times:
Most people are not aware of the demand and value of rare metals. For more information regarding these metals, their uses, and their values, Haines and Maassen, one of just a few traders, will be able to provide you with any needed information.
Scandium, Lanthanum, Ytterbium. These words are foreign to most people but amongst people in the know, they are words which cause a lot of excitement today. These are metals rare and otherwise which are starting to become scarce. These scarcities are a real threat to many industrial countries, because these metals are used for important current and future technologies such as batteries for electric cars, aircraft turbines, solar panels or TV and PC screens
Many rare metals are currently produced in countries with complicated political environments. Countries like Russia, Brazil, Congo and China. China produces over 90% of the rare metals in the world today. The problem is that China covets these metals as much as any one and is currently drastically reducing their export levels to other industrial countries in need of these metals. At this particular time, because of scarity, there are 14 metals that are considered rare.
An Established Network
Even before China’s export restrictions it was not easy to get these commodities. Although there is a stock exchange in Shanghai, foreigners are not allowed to buy rare metals there. In a village close to Bonn, Germany, is an inconspicuous looking warehouse of a family-owned business called Haines & Maassen. In this warehouse many coveted commodities can be found. The five-meter-high shelves accommodate approximately 850 different metals in boxes, barrels, glass containers or bags. In one of the lower compartments are eleven barrels, 50 inches high and wide containing the metal, Hafnium.
According to the owners, “Gunther Maassen stores about 5 percent of the annual global production of Hafnium in their warehouse.”
Long-standing relationships benefit the company
For the last 40 years, the 77 year old father and patriarch of the family-owned buisness visits the London Metal Exchange every year even when there are no coveted and rare earth metals being traded. His sons regularly travel the world in order to maintain contacts and establish new ones. The family has a particularly good relationship with the Chinese, from which the company gets a little more than half of its stock of raw materials. The Maassens are currently benefitting from long-standing well-established, nurtured buisness relationship
The warehouse is not large but contains a fortune in metals.
More than 60 years ago the father of this family started in the metal business, and today both of his sons help run the company. Their specialty is the niche product of rare metals. “The important factor is that we built an established network, that allows us to bring the few producers and consumers together,” said Maassen. In the case of Hafnium there only three large manufacturers in the world and one of those is currently not in production.
Long-standing relationships benefit the company
For the last 40 years, the 77 year old father and patriarch of the family-owned buisness visits the London Metal Exchange every year even when there are no coveted and rare earth metals being traded. His sons regularly travel the world in order to maintain contacts and establish new ones. The family has a particularly good relationship with the Chinese, from which the company gets a little more than half of its stock of raw materials. The Maassens are currently benefitting from long-standing well-established, nurtured buisness relationships.
Deliverys are made to research institutions, industry and investors.
Thanks to their good name, they are also praised by foreign companies which wish to sell their metals. And even if someone is looking for a very specific commodity, it is Maassen’s pleasure to help. “We have a gentleman sitting in China, acting as a scout who recieves directions from us,” said Maassen. “He is highly-effective and instrumental in providing us with new clients and new contacts. “
Rare earth metals as an investment
Special requests come mostly from research institutes. As a matter of fact, eighty percent of the Haines and Maassen contracts, are with research institutes. But the family business sells the bulk of their metals to industry as research institutes only require small quantities.
Most recently, buisnesses and individuals outside of industry are beginning to buy substantial quantities of rare metals as a tangible asset used to combat the negative effects of inflation and the devaluing of currency.
It was because of this increasing scarcity within the commodity markets that the Maassen’s decided to bring the investors and the industry together, “In four or five years at the peak of the shortage if reached, the investors will be able to provide those materials to the industry. In return, the industry could contribute to the storage costs and receive advance rights for those rare metals.” , said Maassen.
A family that appreciates minerals
Apart from all his business activities Gunther Maassen is also a big fan of metals and rare products. He has collected large blocks of different materials, which are worth a fortune as they come directly from the the mines. If you visit Maassen it is not unusual to get a piece of a meteor placed in your hands to be surprised with its heavy weight. “We also have a deep-sea manganese nodule. That is the material which is in small chunks at three to four thousand meters depth on the ocean floor,” according to Gunther.
This enthusiasm for rare metals has spread to his sons who subsequently joined the company. The Maassen’s would never sell these particular pieces but they do lend them for exhibitions on occasions. These are family treasures to be passed down from generation to generation in the years to come.