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’
Alrosa's rough diamond production in Q1 2019 declined significantly from the same period in 2018, as did its sales, impacted by a sharp decline in prices and a larger share of small-size diamonds in the sales mix and lower prices mostly for medium-size diamonds.
The Antwerp rough diamond trade had its best month of the year thus far, particularly in terms of value, though like much of the rough trade globally it is operating at much lower levels than in 2018. Exports of polished goods slowed in March while prices continue their steady climb above the record average prices achieved in 2018.
Canadian diamond miner Stornoway encountered a host of difficulties in 2018 on its way to a US$246.8 million (CA$329.4 million) loss, substantially widening the loss of US$85.6 million (CA$114.2 million) recorded last year. The miner's challenges included delays in the ramp-up of the Renard 2 underground mine, the processing of low-grade stockpiles during the transition from open pit to underground operations and weak diamond prices.
Following modest holiday sales, slow trading at the February/March Hong Kong show and a sluggish BaselWorld, typical first quarter inventory restocking of polished diamonds was "subdued" and "cautious" this year, while rough sales tumbled as manufacturing slowed, according to a Rapaport News press release.
Russian diamond mining giant Alrosa has released it results for FY 2018, reporting a 6% increase in the value of diamonds sold to $4.4 billion, and a 9% rise in revenue despite an 8% decline in the volume of goods sold, totalling 38.1 million carats for the year. The miner attributes the increase in sales and revenue to stronger prices and improved mix of gem-quality diamonds. While Q4 diamond sales increased 34% q-o-q to 9.0 m carats, the main increase was from industrial quality diamonds, causing Q4 sales to decline 13% q-o-q (-7% y-o-y) to $824 million as large-size diamond sales fell.
With 86 percent of all rough diamonds flowing through Antwerp on their journey from mine to market, trends from the diamond capital give a fairly good indication of what is happening in the rough trade globally. According to February's figures from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), the trade in smaller, lower-priced goods is picking up again, but this does not mean demand is robust, as prices continue to tumble - something that cannot be said for the polished trade, where prices remain high.
De Beers reported a 4% rise in total revenue for FY 2018, reaching $6.1 billion, but its earnings slid by 13% to $1.25 billion driven by expenditures such as the $87 million acquisition of Peregrine Diamonds and the launch of Lightbox Jewelry. Rough diamond sales rose by 4% to $5.4 billion (2017: $5.2 billion), driven by improved overall consumer demand for diamond jewelry and a 1% increase in the average rough diamond price index.
The state of the diamond mining industry as 2019 enters full swing is concerning to many throughout the trade. The fall in prices of small, lower-quality diamonds, a staple of many miners, had participants at the Africa Mining Indaba last week concerned about the sustainability of their operations if the market does not correct this year, with some even concerned about their survival.
South Africa-focused miner Petra Diamonds has seen its shares tumble 27% since Monday's announcement of its H1 2019 results, despite an 8% increase in sales and a 10% rise in production. The culprit? Near-historical low prices earned from its rough diamonds from its flagship Cullinan mine. Prices achieved from the miner's Cullinan goods slumped 31% compared to last year, earning just $96 per carat, and compared to a nine-year average of $140 per carat from 2009 to 2018, the miner said.