Awni Kaloti came to Miami 39 years ago and made some smart career moves that took him from a job in fast food to running a business that buys, assays and sells gold.
“My first job was at a McDonald’s in South Miami,” said Kaloti, whose family is Lebanese and who lived in different parts of the Middle East before arriving here.
Kaloti moved on from McDonald’s to later set up a food distribution business (lamb imports) and in 2010 decided to get into gold and precious metals.
Today, he is the managing director and one of the owners of Miami-based Kaloti Metals & Logistics (KML), a company with 12 employees that buys and sells gold and ranks as one of the largest gold buyers in the United States.
“KML offers complete and comprehensive precious metals solutions to its customers, including purchase and sale, melting, assaying and logistics services,” said Alvaro Rodríguez, Kaloti’s operational manager. “The bulk of our business activity is to provide a reliable and agile evaluation hub,” said Rodríguez, who joined KML the year it was founded.
“Most of our gold — about 75 percent — is sourced in Latin America, and the rest comes from the U.S.,” said Kaloti, who studied at Miami Dade College and Florida International University.
Kaloti buys gold from mining companies in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana and countries in the Caribbean, and obtains scrap from wholesale jewelers. Kaloti chose Miami for the company’s base because it is strategically placed to receive gold from major Latin American producers and because it is an international hub and trade center.
Because of the danger of gold being used in money laundering, KML is extremely careful about where it buys gold and does not do business in some countries where money laundering is a national problem.
“KML is a financial institution, and we make sure that we are fully compliant with the anti-money laundering provisions of the USA Patriot Act and all other government rules to guard against money laundering,” Rodríguez said. KML investigates the companies that supply their gold as well as their executives, shareholders and business partners. It conducts independent audits and works with U.S government agencies and Interpol. “We refuse more customers who want to sell us gold than we accept,” he added.
KML has a sophisticated lab in Miami with facilities for melting, inspecting and assaying the doré (bars of less than pure gold, usually cast at gold mines), scrap gold, gold dust and other forms — including coins — it receives at its Miami offices, said Rodríguez, who was born in Puerto Rico, arrived in Miami when he was 5 and previously worked for The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization for land conservation.
KML’s offices and lab, located in the gold and jewelry district in downtown Miami, deals only with other large commercial buyers and sellers, and does not buy gold or jewelry from the public. The offices operate under heavy security: Cameras are everywhere, and there is a double armored door at the entrance. And while other neighboring businesses post “We buy gold signs,” the KML name doesn’t even appear on the entrance to its building.
During a recent visit, a shipment of gold bars from Peru worth an estimated $8 million arrived at Kaloti’s offices by armored car in several brown and red plastic storage crates and wooden boxes. Kaloti’s staff immediately opened, weighed and tagged the gold bullion, which came in gold bars of different sizes, verifying that the weight received was actually the weight shipped according to the customs declaration.
The gold was then X-rayed, melted down, and, after small samples were taken, tested to determine its purity and the level of other elements each batch contained.
The idea is to assay the gold KML receives, pay the suppliers and ship the gold out as quickly as possible for refining into the highest quality gold bars. KML sends out all newly processed gold before the end of each business day. Suppliers are paid according to the weight and purity of the gold and the day’s international gold price, less a small commission.
KML buys and sells gold and other precious metals like silver platinum and palladium, but about 98 percent of its business involves buying and selling gold.
KML in Miami sells most of its gold to Dubai-based Kaloti Precious Metals (Kaloti Jewellery Group), an international trading company with a large gold refinery in Dubai.
The two companies are separate and independent, and KML is a Florida corporation. However, Awni Kaloti is related to the Dubai family. Kaloti Precious Metals helps KML in Miami with training, technology and financing for the gold sent to its Dubai refinery.
Gold refineries are industrial installations that re-melt and refine ingots to produce the highest-quality “fine” gold bars that are stamped with the weight, purity (for example, 999.9 percent pure = 24 karat gold) and the refinery’s name. KML, which also sells some gold to jewelers, supplies Dubai with gold that is processed into fine gold.
KML competes with other gold buyers in Miami and with large companies that operate precious metals refineries like Ohio Precious Metals, NTR Metals and Opa-locka-based Republic Metals.
KML doesn’t release figures on its trading volumes, but the company says 2013 gold volume was up from 2012, while 2014 volume is about the same as last year.
“When the price of gold was around $1,800 or $1,900 an ounce, a lot of people were selling their jewelry and we received a lot of scrap gold,” Kaloti said. “But with the price around $1,200, they aren’t selling — and a number of gold businesses in Miami closed down.
“We’re focusing more now on gold from mines in Latin America. They are still producing because that’s their business.”
The volume of gold sales matters because KML takes a small commission on each purchase and sale. “We charge a percentage of the value of each transaction, so as the price drops, our income drops,” Kaloti said.
But gold is still a lot better than hamburgers.
Joseph A. Mann Jr. can
be reached at email@example.com
Kaloti Metals & Logistics
Business: Buys, analyzes and sells gold and other precious metals. The B2B company, which works mainly with gold, offers comprehensive services, such as melting, assaying, inspecting and buying gold from reliable sources, including carefully vetted gold mines in Latin America, wholesale jewelers and gold scrap dealers. It also handles logistics for its clients. The Miami-based firm provides independent melting and assaying services for customers who want a professional evaluation of their gold, acting as an independent third-party assayer. After evaluating gold and melting it down into bars at its lab, Kaloti sells most of the gold to its trade associate, Dubai-based Kaloti Precious Metals, one of the largest international gold and precious metals refiners and trading houses. It also sells gold directly to jewelers. Kaloti in Miami is locally owned and is independent of the Dubai company.
Headquarters: 55 NE First St., Miami, with representative offices in Bolivia and Peru.
Managing director: Awni Kaloti.
Ownership: Privately held by Awni Kaloti and other investors.
Source: Kaloti Metals & Logistics