De Beers Says the Diamond Market Is Getting Better

(Bloomberg) -- De Beers’ Chief Executive Officer said an improvement in diamond sales demonstrates that the poor demand for smaller stones that has plagued the company and its competitors in recent months is stabilizing.

Bruce Cleaver, the CEO of the world’s biggest diamond company, said the poor demand for stones valued at less than $100 a carat has been due to a surfeit of supply, currency weakness in India and the difficulty faced by gem cutters in accessing financing. While the currency of India, which is the world’s biggest cutter and polisher of diamonds, has fallen 5.7 percent against the dollar over the last year, the rupee has arrested that decline, gaining 1.9 percent over the last three months.

“If you see the results we’ve published earlier this week it’s the best sight we’ve had this year,” Cleaver said in an interview in Cape Town on Thursday. “We are seeing a stabilization in the lower-end goods so we would expect over time that it would work itself out as supply slowly normalizes.”

De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond company, has in recent months been forced to cut prices to sell its cheaper gems and its sales have been depressed. While it sold $575 million worth of gems in its so-called third cycle of the year it was only able to realize about $500 million in each of its first two cycles of the year. Cycles include the 10 so-called sights, or sales, De Beers holds in Botswana every year as well as smaller auctions.

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Cleaver said the company is “cautiously optimistic” for 2019 and believes that diamond supply has peaked and that will support prices in coming years.

De Beers, which is owned by Anglo American Plc, is famous for its tight control over the diamond market. Its sales in Botswana, where it mines diamonds in a joint venture with the government, are to a select group of customers. The buyers are expected to specify the number and type of diamonds they want, and then carry out the purchases at a price set by De Beers.

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