The Antwerp World Diamond Centre continues its AWDC Webinar Series tomorrow, April 29 from 15:00-16:00 with a presentation on the "Rough Market: a Q&A with Paul Zimnisky."
The writing appears to be on the proverbial wall: the Indian diamond industry is careening toward a temporary ban on rough-diamond imports which, if implemented, will effectively bring rough diamond trading to a halt. How can manufacturers survive without rough, you may ask? If Chaim Even-Zohar’s calculations are correct, it is because they are sitting on $1.5-$2 billion of rough diamond inventory already, with another $5 billion in polished ready for sale. The question then becomes: why buy more?
Mid-tier miner Petra Diamonds has been keeping us up to date with regards to the impact on the company of the global COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately reporting that they experienced depressed and opportunistic bidding for its diamonds at its fifth sales cycle of FY 2020, particularly in the larger size and higher quality, greater value categories. Petra therefore chose to only sell a portion of its South African goods, representing approximately 75% by volume and 50% by value.
The cautious optimism that had returned to the Antwerp diamond industry following the first month of 2020 was short-lived, as the explosive spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 in February effectively closed eastern markets and caused great uncertainty across the global diamond trade. Antwerp's rough-diamond trade still enjoyed the boost from the miners' strong January sales, but the warning signs appeared there as well - particularly toward the end of the month.
Lucara Diamond Co. pulled off a strong performance in 2019 despite a tough market and achieving a lower average price per carat than in the previous five years, largely due to a solid performance in the final quarter and record production through the plant in 2019. The miner, which owns and operates the Karowe mine in Botswana, earned total revenues of $192.5 million (2018: $176.2 million) from the sale of 411,732 carats, or $468 per carat (2018: $502 per carat) during fiscal year 2019, beating their guidance of $170 million to $180 million.
De Beers Group reported its preliminary 2019 financial results today (Feb.20), confirming the already well-documented declines experienced across the global rough diamond trade in 2019. The average price earned per carat and a decline in sales volumes were the obvious and main culprits, but these were just the visible results of a whole raft of challenges the world's most famous miner faced last year - along with the rest of the industry - starting with the oversupply of polished in the manufacturing and midstream segments.
Gem Diamonds, the London-based miner that operates the famous Letšeng mine high in the mountains of Lesotho, reported a major uptick in its fortunes in the fourth quarter of 2019 as revenue for the period (Oct. 1 - Dec. 31) increased 41% over the previous quarter on a near-equal rise in the volume of carats sold and the average price per carat. The improved performance was sorely needed, as even with the Q4 increases the miner's 2019 fell by a third in a difficult market.
Lucapa Diamond Co. and its partners today announced its first run of mine diamond sales from the Lulo alluvial mine in Angola and the Mothae kimberlite mine in Lesotho generated combined gross proceeds of US$5.5 million (A$8.2 million).
The anticipated increase in rough-diamond trading activity as the calendar flipped to 2020 lived up to expectations in Antwerp, as the volume of rough imports to Antwerp during the month of January surged 43% compared to the first month of 2019. The 8.1 million carats imported was the most since December 2018 and outpaced January 2019 imports by over 2.4 million carats.
Mountain Province Diamonds turned in a very strong production performance at the Gahcho Kué mine in Canada, particularly in the fourth quarter, but a 15% decline in the average price achieved for their rough diamonds over the course of 2019 dragged their proceeds down. A slightly lower recovery grade also curtailed their carat recovery, which ended just below 2018 levels.
Russian diamond miner Alrosa, the largest rough producer in the world, raised its output 5% to 38.5 million carats from 36.7 million carats in 2018 despite lower market demand which pushed their total diamond sales down 12% to 33.4 million carats. The combination of more production and softer sales increased their rough inventories by 5.6 million carats (+33%) to 22.6 million carats. The Russian giant's 2019 rough sales fell 26% to $3.27 billion as the average realised prices for gem-quality rough fell 19% to $133 per carat from $164 per caat last year.
2019 was a challenging year for the global diamond trade. The entire industry, from miners to manufacturers and from diamond traders to jewelry retailers saw their trade figures and profits decline during the past year. Antwerp, as the leading diamond trading hub, was caught in the middle of the industry-wide storm. “Geopolitical instability led to economic turmoil, which negatively impacted consumer confidence,” says Ari Epstein, CEO of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre.
As we welcome a new year and extend our hopes that you, our readers, will enjoy good health and good fortune in 2020, we take a moment to look back at the issues and articles of the past year that most sparked your interest.
Lucara Diamond Corp. has reported that its final diamond tender of 2019, held on December 12, generated sales proceeds of US$52.9 million. Sales of goods from the Karowe Diamond Mine in Botswana were 16% higher than expected, and achieved an average price of US$548 per carat. They noted improvments to market pricing in all size classes. The December tender bring Lucara's 2019 revenue at $192.5 million, exceeding the 2019 revenue guidance of $170 - $180 million and outpacing their 2018 sales of $176.2 million.
Lucapa Diamond Company earned US$6.4 million (A$9.3 million) at the latest sale of diamonds from the Lulo alluvial mine in Angola and the Mothae kimberlite mine in Lesotho. This sales brings Lucapa's total 2019 sales of Lulo and Mothae diamonds to US$55.0 million (A$79.0 million), more than doubling their entire earnings of US$26.4 million a year ago.
Antwerp’s rough-diamond trade put a weak October performance in the rear-view mirror in November, as the volume of rough exports in particular rose sharply despite another decline in the average price per carat, according to figures from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC). The polished-diamond sector remained more sluggish than usual in what has been a modest month for trade over the past several years.
The first ever direct tender in Antwerp of 350,000 carats of rough diamonds from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) delivered on all expectations.Out of 115 companies, both Antwerp-based companies and foreign buyers from Israel, India, Dubai and other countries, attending the viewings, 79 companies placed 426 bids on 36 lots.
The price cut De Beers introduced for the November sight (Cycle 9) appears to have generated some movement in the rough diamond market, as the miner sold (provisionally) $390 million at its latest sale. This marks the third straight sight with increasing sales and a 31% jump over the $297 million in sales at the previous sight, though it is still 12% lower than in Cycle 9 a year ago.
Imports and exports of rough and polished diamonds to Antwerp slowed in October on a year-over-year basis as the market recession continued to impact the flow of goods and their prices. High inventories of polished goods continue to soften demand for rough goods to polish, pushing rough as well as polished prices down.
The difficulties facing diamond miners delivering products at the lower end of the market hit Mountain Province Diamonds (MPD) particularly hard in Q3 (the three months ending Sept. 30), though the miner has been struggling with low prices for some time now. Q3 revenue from sales declined by 26% as the average price per carat fell by 28%. The company attributes a downturn in carats recovered, as well as the low prices achieved, to mining activity in a lower grade and quality areas that delivered "the expected poorer product mix", as well as "challenging" market conditions.
The Angolan National Diamond Trading Company (Sodiam) has reported an increase in revenues from the sale of rough diamonds during Q3 2019, driven by a significant increase in the volume of carats sold as the average price per carat fell.
Leading producer of high-value stones Gem Diamonds recorded modest declines in Q3 compared to Q2, reporting fewer carats sold, lower revenue and average prices achieved for its goods from the Letšeng mine in Lesotho. A year-over-year comparision, however, paints a picture of a more substantial decline and reflects the realities miners are facing in this slumping market.
According to Bloomberg News' Thomas Biesheuvel, De Beers at its November sight took the nearly unprecendented step of lowering the price of rough diamonds by 5%, according to sources that spoke anonymously as the matter is private. Our sources in Antwerp were able to confirm a softening of prices in most categories but did not place a percentage figure on it.
Firestone Diamonds last week reported a decline in revenue during for the quarter ended 30 September 2019 (Q1 of their 2020 FY) due mainly to lower sales prices for diamonds from its Liqhobong mine in Lesotho. The miner has had to deal with a power supply cut to the mine since 1 October, which forced Firesetone to temporarily shut down the mine's treatment plant until power is restored.
Mid-tier diamond miner Petra Diamonds Ltd said its first-quarter revenue sank sharply as sales and prices fell, despite production increasing slightly compared to the same period the prior year. For Q1 FY 2020, covering production and sales from 1 July 2019 to 30 September 2019, diamond production rose 1% to 1.08 million carats from 1.07 million carats a year prior.
A 27% decline in the average price per carat led to an equivalent decline in total Q3 proceeds for Canadian miner Mountain Province Diamonds, as the company sold about the same number of carats as in Q3 last year.
Lucapa's latest sales of rough diamonds from its Lulo (Angola) and Mothae (Lesotho) mines totalled $US10.4 million ($A15.5m), taking combined sales to date for 2019 to $US45.9m ($A65.7m).
The Antwerp diamond industry’s import and export figures for the month of September were mainly in line with what we could call ‘2019 normal’ – prices down, polished trade slow – but the volume of rough goods traded in Antwerp’s hit its highest levels of the year, with the quantity of rough exports more than doubling those in August, according to figures from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre's Diamond Office.
According to the latest reporting by Thomas Biesheuvel at Bloomberg, at Sight 8 (23 Sept. - 27 Sept.) De Beers has once again offered several options to increase the flexibility of buyers struggling with an industry-wide slump caused mainly by an oversupply polished stones in the diamond 'pipeline'.
Diamcor Mining, a publicly-traded junior diamond mining company with a strategic alliance and first right of refusal with Tiffany & Co. Canada, reported a 22% decline in rough diamond sales in the second fiscal quarter due to the sale of a higher percentage of smaller, lower-quality rough diamonds than in the same period last year.
H.E. Félix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), today paid a visit to the Antwerp diamond industry in the context of a broader mission to improve the relationship between Belgium and the DRC, which has been on the rocks in recent years. As President of the fourth largest diamond-producing country by volume, President Tshisekedi was welcomed by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), representative of the world’s largest diamond trade center.
The global diamond industry in the first half of 2019 faced a variety of well-doucmented challenges leading to declining commerce across all segments of the trade.
Lucapa Diamond Company, which operates high-value mines in Lesotho (Mothae) and Angola (Lulo), saw its first half 2019 net profit after tax jump to US$1.1 million compared with a US$4.3m loss during the same period last year as an increase in production led to higher sales, complemented by a massive jump in the average price per carat sold. Their combined rough sales rose by 85% to US$29.4 million from US$15.9 million a year ago.
Replicating the first-half results of 2018 was always going to be a challenge for Gem Diamonds, and against that high bar the miner came up short in H1 2019.
Despite higher production and sales volumes, Lucara Diamond recorded a much lower profit in Q2 2019 than the same period a year earlier, as the extended slump in the diamond trade demonstrates it offers no immunity. L Lucara reported net earnings of $700,000 for the quarter on revenue of $42.5 million, figures which compare unfavorably with a profit of $19.7 million on revenue of $64.5 million in the same quarter in 2018.
Following the discovery of a 64-carat rough that the company considers the highest-quality diamond from the Mothae Mine to date, Lucapa Diamond Company has announced earnings of $6.2 million (AUS$8.8 million) from the latest sales of diamonds from the Lulo alluvial mine in Angola and the Mothae kimberlite mine in Lesotho. The latest sales from Lulo and Mothae take total sales from both mines to US$35.5 million (A$50.2 million) for the year to date.
The De Beers Group recorded a 27% decline in first-half earnings to $518 million (2018: $712 million) due to the challenging midstream trading environment and slowing consumer demand growth, parent company Anglo American stated in their interim financial results. The difficult market has led to a decrease in rough diamond prices and has put pressure on the margins of those in the trading business, the company said.
For months now, the news emerging from across the diamond industry has been colored various shades of sombre, with each analysis referring to some version of the same list of issues ailing the trade: falling polished prices combined with excessive polished inventories, a financing squeeze on Indian manufacturers and a lack of profitablity, low demand for rough, economic uncertainty generated by an unstable geopolitical climate ... take your pick. The question Paul Zimnisky examines is whether this all adds up to a 'crisis'.
A combination of factors has led to widespread uncertainty and a global downturn in the diamond industry during the first half of 2019. Antwerp - the world’s leading diamond trade centre - has not escaped its impact, particularly in the rough diamond trade. Economic uncertainty generated by an unstable geopolitical climate has also fostered a heightened sense of caution among the banks that finance the trade, as well as diamond brokers and consumers of luxury goods.
The Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair last week (20-23 June) provided a snapshot of a cautious diamond industry in the midst of a period of weak sentiment and even weaker demand, according to several traders we spoke with this week. And they do not see any quick fixes on the horizon. While it may not be the largest diamond show of the year, Hong-Kong June is the most important mid-year jewelry sourcing event in Asia, and as such provides us the opportunity to take the pulse of the polished diamond trade. The consensus? Sentiment is poor.
‘Wait and see’