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Botswana should offload its stake in De Beers – diamond analyst

17 november 2011

A well-known diamond industry analyst has urged Botswana not to consider upping its stake in De Beers but rather offload its current 15 percent shareholding or bundle it into a holding company.
Botswana government had up to 12 months to decide whether to use an option of increasing its stake in De Beers from the present 15 percent to 25 percent following the Oppenheimers’ decision to sell its 40 percent stake to Anglo-American.
Mmegi quoted Even-Zohar as saying that he had never seen any reason why Botswana should hold a stake in De Beers.
He alleged that Botswana only got the (eventual) 15 percent stake in De Beers because neither Anglo nor the Oppenheimer family wanted the other to hold a majority.
"For a country with a gradually depleting resource, it needs shareholders that respect the economic, budgetary and societal aspirations of the Botswana government," Even-Zohar said.
"For Botswana to hold 15 percent (or any percentage) in De Beers does not make much sense and spending these funds in other investments, diversifying out of diamonds, seems preferable.”
He said with the Debswana diamond resources, Botswana should concentrate on domestic mining production.
“Why would you need to have a small stake in a company that owns other mines in Canada, South Africa or Namibia?  You will never have a real say on policies and are only unnecessarily holding on to passive diamond investments, rather than putting the money to more attractive uses,” Even-Zohar said.
He urged the Botswana government to set up a holding company, which would give it a chance to participate and own shares in the diamond resources while convalescing its investments.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished

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