De Beers sold an estimated $480 million worth of rough diamonds at its November sight that ended this past week. Sightholders continue to note difficult market conditions and low profit margins as De Beers has curbed supply and kept its prices steady.
“It was a smaller sight than October but it went well,” said Nigel Simson, head of beneficiation at De Beers Diamond Trading Company (DTC) division. “We are being cautious and there are still areas of low demand and price resistance.”
Sight participants reported that De Beers reduced prices slightly for the more difficult, slow moving boxes. On average, however, they noted that prices have been basically stable since August, when De Beers reduced prices by about 10 percent. Assortments at the November sight also remained relatively unchanged.
Shortfalls & deferments
De Beers repeated its previously stated message that it expects shortfalls in supply in the next few months. The company has focused on maintenance and waste mining as the market has been soft for most of 2012. It also lost a month of production at its flagship Jwaneng mine (pictured) in Botswana after the operation was suspended due to a slope failure in June.
“There are some shortfalls between the intentions to offer (ITO) that we forecast at the beginning of the year and what we are able to supply now,” Simson said. “We will be sitting with individual sightholders in December to discuss how it will affect their ITO’s in the next few months.”
Sightholders noted their concerns regarding the shortfall. “They’re holding back supply in order to support prices,” said one sightholder. “There is demand for all goods but it all depends on price.”
“The Russians have also sold less to keep prices up. Rough prices are being kept artificially high so it’s not easy,” he added.
Feedback from the De Beers sight indicated that there were some rejections of higher priced goods, which were taken up by other sightholders. There was no ex-plan provided. Some sightholders noted that they took up goods that De Beers allowed them to defer from previous sights. Simson added that other sightholders still have to take up those deferments in December or during the first quarter of 2013.
Another sightholder said he expects the rough shortfall will filter to the polished market, helping manufacturers raise their polished prices. For now, he noted that polished prices have been stable, while the market has improved slightly ahead of the Christmas season. The RapNet Diamond Index (RAPI) for certified 1 carat polished diamonds fell 1.8 percent in October.
Rough trading on the secondary market has remained weak as most Indian manufacturers and dealers have closed for their one-month vacation over the Diwali festival, which takes place this week (November 13).
Mike Aggett, managing director of H. Goldie & Company, a diamond broker and consultancy, wrote on the company’s blog that Diwali will give a welcome respite to both ?growing polished stocks and strained liquidity.
“Rough stocks at the manufacturing level are comfortable but reports indicate significant volumes remaining in the trading centers,” Aggett wrote. “Polished stocks remain higher than usual, but with the important selling season of Diwali and the arrival of Thanksgiving to kick start the U.S. Christmas season there is optimism that stock levels will be more manageable as we enter 2013.”
Simson said De Beers has started to see some positive signs at the retail level and still expects the diamond jewelry market to record moderate growth in 2012.
Still, sightholders remain concerned about the lack of profitability from manufacturing. “We’re looking at the market and hope that the De Beers shortfall will ease both the rough and polished market conditions for next year,” said one sightholder. “But there’s a lot going on in the world and the market is weak. It’s been a long year.”