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Prices may recover end-2010, says De Beers

11 february 2009

Rough diamond prices may recover by Christmas 2010 after big players reduced output in response to a sharp drop in demand, the world's top diamond producer, De Beers, said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Global demand for rough diamonds is expected to drop by some 60% this year as the global recession hits demand for luxury goods, industry consultants have said, noting lower demand from the vital US market, PolishedPrices.com reported.
De Beers, 45% owned by Anglo American, has said it wants to slash production by a "significant" amount.
Stephen Lussier, De Beers' marketing director, said De Beers' production cuts were confidential, but that together with cuts being made by others they would see prices rise.
"We have no clue when prices will rise, maybe later this year. But realistically by the fourth quarter of next year, we shall see by Christmas 2010. If it comes quicker we are ready to ramp up production," he said on the sidelines of a mining conference in Cape Town.
The company also wants to lay off about a third of its 3,500 workers in South Africa, citing low demand for luxury goods. Consultations on job cuts have also begun at mines in Botswana, Namibia and Canada and its London headquarters, the report said.
Lussier said the diamond sector was characterised by reduced consumer demand, low liquidity levels, industry debt and high inventory levels.
Poor retail Christmas sales last year would see a significant return of unsold goods to cutting centres in the first quarter of this year, he said.
Huge debts and high inventories held by cutting centres had choked demand for rough diamonds, he said.
Their debt peaked at $13.9 billion in September and was at $12.6 billion in December, Lussier said, adding that the industry's borrowing base was shrinking owing to the credit crunch. Demand for rough diamonds would only recover once this was addressed, and possibly return to previous levels.
"This crisis has come upon us with great speed and caught us by surprise. In September we could not get diamonds out of the ground fast enough to meet demand," Lussier said.
Until recently, the rough and polished diamond market has been estimated at $50 billion a year, but prices of polished diamonds have fallen 13% since reaching a peak in August, according to Polishedprices, an independent news and price list provider to the diamond industry.
The United States, which accounts for about one-half of world diamond demand, as well as major consumers Europe and Japan have been hit hard by the global economic slowdown, said the report.
Lussier said diamond markets in China and India were growing fast and would equal US demand by the end of this decade.
"Chinese have an inherent desire for diamonds, they have a much higher per capita consumption than the US, the appetite is there," he said. "They should reach the consumption levels of US by the end of this decade."