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De Beers Expects at Least 5% Drop in Retail Diamond Sales for '09

27 april 2009

A production cut by De Beers, the world’s leading diamond producer, will help improve market dynamics for diamond this year, according to Varda Shine, managing director of the Diamond Trading Company (DTC), the distribution arm of De Beers, RAPAPORT reported citing Business Standard. There have already been signs of improvement in demand this quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2008, she told reporters here today. Against the backdrop of the global slowdown, De Beers has decided to cut its production by 40 to 50 percent this year. According to Shine, diamond demand at the retail counter should experience a drop of between 5 and 10 percent this year, but the fall in supplies will be much larger, leading to improved stability in the industry.
The company has also decided to cut costs by 47 percent and to close some of its less-viable mines. Some leading diamond producers have either shut some of their mines for maintenance or reduced their capacity utilization since the fourth quarter, and some others have declared mining holidays to reduce costs.
Concerning the Indian market, Shine said that the country’s diamond processors have seen “some improvement” this year and are trying to “come back on track.” The three sights held by the DTC this year have seen steady improvement in sales, and the trend is expected to continue, she said. A leading diamond processor here said that BHP Billiton, a rival of De Beers, has fetched high prices for rough diamonds at auction, indicating an improvement in demand. BHP Billiton sells diamond through auctions, while De Beers trades rough diamonds through selected sightholders.
The U.S. consumes about 50 percent of the world's polished diamonds; Japan is the second-largest market, with 16 percent. According to DTC, India is third. To improve sales, DTC has planned a marketing campaign for the fourth quarter of this year in the U.S. that should benefit Indian traders as well. “We have earmarked a big budget for this campaign, and this will help Indian producers to sell more polished diamonds and diamond-studded jewelry in the biggest market,” Shine said.
She said that “last year was an aberration,” as the processors were buying rough diamonds “at any price, and at some stage, rough prices have gone up much faster than those of polished diamonds. Now, rough prices have aligned to more realistic levels. DTC has also revised prices of rough diamonds downwards,” she said. Shine, however, refused to divulge price details.