The year 2019 presented a difficult sales path for diamond mining giant De Beers Group, the lucrative industry behemoth has to date sold about $ 1.2 billion less worth of polished diamonds this year.
During the first half of the year, sales portrayed steeper downward trajectory in the wake of muted manufacturing sector resulting in a backlog of polished diamond inventories in the midstream and weaker trading conditions. The company which ethically sources about 60 % of its diamonds in Botswana through Debswana, a 50-50 partnership with Government of Botswana conducts 10 cycles in a year at its high rise magnificent Global Sight Holder Sales block in Gaborone.
Ten times a year, sight holders descend Sir Seretse Khama International Airport from Belgium, United States, India, China & the Gulf amongst others markets for about a week long auction sale of rough diamonds from Botswana, Namibia & Canada and South Africa. De Beers Global Sight holder Sales relocated from London to Botswana in 2011.
In the year 2018 De Beers’s rough diamonds sales amounted to US$5.39 Billion, approximately P54 Billion, this was a slight pickup from the 2017 sales value of US$5.31 Billion. For the year 2019 nine (9) cycles have only gathered total sales provisional value of US$3.60 billion, way below the 2019 value of the same period by over $1.2 billion. The slow start was evident right from the beginning of the year with 2019 Cycle 1 registering actual value of US$544 million , US$128 million less than the 2018 cycle 1 which hit heights values of US$672 million.
The first quarter of the year showed slight upward trajectory with cycle 2 sales a bit higher than cycle 1 and cycle 3 showing improvement from cycle 2 as well, however still below the same cycles in the previous year 2018. Right from after cycle 3 De Beers Rough diamonds sales graph started showing steeper downward gradient with Cycle 4 registering US$416 million compared to $US554 million recorded in 2018. De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer attributed the low performance to macroeconomic uncertainties as well as the period‘s seasonally slow trends owing to Indian factories closing temporarily for the traditional holiday period.
A major decline was registered at Cycle 6, which only managed to sell rough diamonds worth US$250 million, way below the 2018 cycle 6 values of $533 million. This was the lowest amount earned from a sale since December 2015, spilling over from cycle 5 value which were also below the 2018 corresponding cycle by about 32 %. De Beers explained that the trend was attributable to sluggish rough diamond trading circumstances in China, the second largest economy and one of its major markets
“While overall retail sentiment for diamond jewellery in the US remains solid, a more challenging environment in China and higher than normal polished diamond inventories in the midstream resulted in a cautious approach from rough diamond buyers during the fifth cycle of 2019," said Bruce Cleaver De Beers Group Chief Executive in June this year. For cycle 6 the group explained that sales were significantly low also because of persisting macroeconomic uncertainty, with retailers managing inventory levels, and polished diamond inventories in the midstream continuing to be higher than normal.
De Beers Group then provided customers with additional flexibility to defer some of their rough diamond allocations to later in the year. Rough diamond sales continued to be very slow in August (cycle 7) with sales revenue totaling to US$287 million, a slight increase from cycle 6 but still significantly lower that the corresponding cycle in 2018 mirroring 44 % decline when gauged against 2018 cycle 7 value of $503 million.
De Beers continued with its flexibility offer into cycle 7 and 8 giving its clients the opportunity to leave up to 50% of available goods on the table to lower the pressure on buyers without lowering their prices. The company announced in an internal communiqué to sight holders in August De that it would buy back up to 20% by carat weight of customers’ purchases instead of the typical 10%, specifying that they could not use both options on the same box of goods.
The company offered several options to increase the flexibility for manufacturers and traders struggling with an oversupply of rough and polished: in addition to the higher level of buybacks – whereby customers purchase the diamonds and then sell them back to De Beers at an agreed price, while having those purchases count toward their 'demonstrated demand' which determines future allocations. De Beers also enabled buyers to make additional deferrals of goods to later sights, and set an earlier date on the annual opportunity for customers to reschedule their purchases.
When commenting in August after cycle seven Bruce Cleave said “With midstream participants continuing to work down polished diamond inventory levels and reduced levels of manufacturing in the key cutting centers, De Beers Group provided customers with further supply flexibility during the seventh cycle of 2019.” To further respond to market pressures De Beers decreased its rough diamond production in Q2 by 14% to 7.7 million carats and revised its full-year guidance downwards to 31 million carats in response to a backlog of polished diamond inventories in the midstream and weaker trading conditions.
INCREASED MARKETING SPEND
In November De Beers Group announced that its marketing spend in the entire 2019 will be totaling to $180 million (around P1.9 billion). This was revealed by De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer Bruce Cleaver on the sidelines of the Diamond Conference held in Gaborone. Bruce said the $180 million dispatch is De Beers largest marketing spend in 10 years.
“This illustrates how difficult the market was in 2019 , and contrary to what many may think ,when the global demand is subdued we may cut down any expenditure for cost containment but not the marketing spend ,that is actually when you have to increase the marketing budget,” he said.
REDUCED PRODUCTION FORECAST FOR 2020 & 2021
When giving a business update in London this week Group Chief Executive Officer of Anglo American, De Beers’s parent company Mark Cutiffani said during 2019 the diamond industry didn’t have it easy, trade wars sparked uncertainty, depressing manufacturing inventories and slowing down the polished diamonds market uptake.
Anglo reported that De Beers sales fell 26 percent this year amid challenging market conditions adding that this will result in the company lowering its lowering its sights on production in the near future.â€¨â€¨Following its revised full year guidance Anglo noted that De Beers is expected to mine approximately 31 million carats of diamonds in 2019, down 11 percent from 35 million last year.â€¨â€¨Prices on a full-year basis have dropped about 20 percent while the diamond price index is down about 5 percent. De Beers’ mix is down in terms of quality (by price) about 15 percent, due in part to the company holding back some higher-quality goods in hopes market conditions improve.
Anglo has cut its diamond production forecast for the next two years. In 2020, it expects De Beers will mine 32-34 million carats, down from its previous outlook of 33-35 million. For 2021, the forecast was cut from 35-37 million carats to 34-36 million carats. Production guidance for full year 2022 is 33 to 35 million carats.
Strategic partnership offers inherent benefits of global knowledge, African insights, and local expertise and commitment
Minet Group and Africa Lighthouse Capital today announced that they have received regulatory approval and fulfilled all requirements to acquire Aon’s shareholding in Aon Botswana, and consequently will begin the process to rebrand to Minet Botswana.
Minet Group is a well-known and trusted pan-African risk advisory firm and Aon’s largest Global Network Correspondent and has been rapidly expanding its African footprint since 2017 through the acquisition of operations from global professional services firm Aon in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Minet has been delivering world class products and services across Africa for over 70 years.
Africa Lighthouse Capital (ALC) is a leading Botswana citizen-owned private equity firm focused on investing in Botswana companies and propelling them into regional champions, with over BWP 500 million in funds under management.
The new entity will be rebranded to Minet and will inherit deeply rooted respect by its clients for their innovative and locally relevant solutions, responsiveness, and efficient processes. Furthermore, it shall have the benefit of consistency in leadership and staffing, with Barnabas Mavuma, previously Managing Director of Aon Botswana, continuing to lead the business as the MD supported by the local management team.
“The addition of Minet Botswana to our growing African network affirms our belief in the great opportunities for growth that Africa offers, driven by rising consumer demand, huge investment in infrastructure and quick adoption of new technology,” says Joe Onsando, CEO at Minet Group.
“This transaction significantly adds to the diversity and skills base of our team and will have a positive impact on the range of products and services we provide. Our Correspondent agreement with Aon gives us access to global expertise and data driven insights and uniquely positions us to deliver risk advisory solutions that reduce volatility, thus driving improved performance for our clients. This is a very exciting time to be Minet in Africa.”
“The significantly increased Botswana citizen shareholding effected by this transaction gives rise to an exciting era of local market focus and growth for Minet Botswana,” says Bame Pule, Founder and CEO of Africa Lighthouse Capital. “We intend to work with Minet Botswana’s local management team to further localise the business in terms of product development, while at the same time investing in local skills development and business development. We look forward to this exciting journey, which will result in a significantly enhanced service offering for Minet Botswana’s clients.”
Consequently, and similar to the other members of the Minet Group, Minet Botswana becomes an Aon Global Network Correspondent, retaining its access to Aon’s resources, technology, and best practises, combined with the benefit of independent, local agility. This transaction furthermore significantly increases local shareholding, enabling operations to become even nimbler and better positioned to unlock new and existing growth opportunities.
Clients of Minet Botswana will experience continuity of product and service delivery standards in the short term. In the near future, they can expect an enhanced offering that combines agility with technology and product innovation, tailormade for their specific needs.
Together, Minet and ALC bring a sound understanding of local market conditions, strong governance, and an established track record in the region. These qualities, combined with Aon’s global capabilities and expertise, will bring clear benefits for clients.
This transaction vastly increases citizen ownership with shareholders who are going to be active in the business. The transfer of equity interests in Botswana to investors with local and regional expertise, presence and commitment will allow the businesses to move quickly in line with market movements, and to introduce products that are tailored to the local market.
“Minet’s commitment and drive to incessantly adapt to changing market conditions, and to innovate to meet the unique insurance demands of the African continent, while maintaining the high standards customers have come to expect – Onsando concludes – will continue to grow and give Minet a powerful competitive edge within the African market”.
French President Emmanuel Macron received 21 Heads of state and government officials from Africa during the recent summit on the Financing of African Economies that focused on Africa to take full advantage of the tectonic shifts in the global economy and the call for a joint effort for financial and vaccination support for the continent.
President Emmanuel Macron stressed that “Most regions of the world are now launching massive post-pandemic recovery plans, using their huge monetary and fiscal instruments. But most African economies suffer the lack of adequate capacities and such instruments to do the same. We cannot afford leaving the African economies behind.
We, the Leaders participating to the Summit, in the presence of international organizations, share the responsibility to act together and fight the great divergence that is happening between countries and within countries.
This requires collective action to build a very substantial financial package, to provide a much-needed economic stimulus as well as the means to invest for a better future. Our ambition is to address immediate financing needs, to strengthen the capacity of African governments to support a strong and sustainable economic recovery and to reinforce the vibrant African private sector, as a long-term growth driver for Africa.”
For her part, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva highlighted that “there is urgency to focus on financing Africa. Last year, the pandemic-caused recession shrank the GDP of the Continent by 1.9 percent – the worst performance on record. This year, we project global growth at 6 percent, but only half that 3.2 percent for Africa.” Adding that Africa needs to grow faster than the world at 7 to 10 percent to meet the aspirations of its youthful populations, and become more prosperous and more secure.
Georgieva revealed that the price tag on the shot is estimated to be “$285 billion through 2025. Of this $135 billion is for low-income countries. This is the bare minimum. To do more – to get African nations back on their previous path of catching up with wealthy countries – will cost roughly twice as much. These are large numbers. They may seem out of reach. But to quote Nelson Mandela: impossible until it is done.”
The main areas of interest to achieve this include; first, end the pandemic everywhere, 40 percent of the population of all countries is targeted to get vaccinated by the end of 2021, and at least 60 percent by mid-2022.
Second, bilateral and multilateral developmentfinancing grants and concessional loans ought to go up. Over the last year, the IMF have swiftly ramped their financing for the Continent, including providing 13 timestheir average annual lending to sub-Saharan Africa. And are working to do much more. The IMF has also received support to increase access limits so they can scale up their zero-interest lending capacity through the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.
The IMF has also devised exceptional measures. Their membership backs an unprecedented new allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) of $650 billion, by far the largest in their history.Once approved, which is intended to be achieved by the end of August, it will directly and immediately make about $33 billionavailable to African members. It will boost their reserves and liquidity, without adding to their debt burden.
Over the course of the last year, the IMF has built experience in facilitating the on lending of SDRs – thus managing to triple their concessional lending capacity as a result.
The Third being, actions at home. According to Georgieva “a crisis is an opportunity for transformational domestic reforms that increase domestic revenue, improve public services, and strengthen governance. For instance, digitalization can improve tax administration and revenue collection, and the quality of public spending. And with radical transparency, Africa can tap into new sources of finance – such as carbon offsets.
There is ample scope for countries to encourage private investment, including in social and physical infrastructure. New IMF research, published today, highlights that domestic and international investors could provide at least 3 percent of GDP per yearof additional financing by the end of this decade.”
Reforms of international taxation can also support Africa’s growth. For a long time, the IMF has been in favor of minimum corporate tax rates to reduce the race to the bottom and tax avoidance. And they strongly support an international agreement on digital tax, something France has been a leading voice for. It is important to secure fair distribution of tax revenues, so they can contribute to closing Africa’s financial gap.
Georgieva called on to each and every one to step up. Reminding the attendees that from history they are all familiar with what a shock of this magnitude can do if not countered forcefully and effectively.
De Beers’ Group, the world’s number one diamond producer by value, this week attributed the downfall of its sales for the fourth cycle week to the second wave of the Covid-19 variant (B.1.617.2) which was first discovered in India.
Diamond trading conditions have been hit by the Covid-19 crisis in India which is a major cutting and polishing centre for the world’s diamond trade.
The outbreak of the new variant has led to a humanitarian crisis with 280, 284 fatalities of the disease reported.
The London headquartered company said the sales in its fourth cycle fell to $380m (about P4.1 billion) down from $450m (about P4.8 billion) in the third cycle though it was higher than the fifth cycles of last year when the group shifted only $56m (P600 million).
De Beers emphasized that they continued to implement a more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the fourth sales cycle of 2021, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.
The De Beers group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruce Cleaver said the company continues to see robust demand for diamond jewellery in the key US and China consumer markets.
“However, the scale of the second wave of Covid-19 in India, where the majority of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished, has led to reduced midstream capacity and subsequently lower rough diamond demand, during what is already a seasonally slower time of year for midstream purchases,” said Cleaver.
Meanwhile Botswana health officials have confirmed the new Covid-19 variant in Botswana. The Ministry of Health and Wellness -through a press statement- informed members of the public that the variant (B.1.617), was confirmed in Botswana on 13th May 2021.
According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.
Moreover the World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting that the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.
The India variant (B.1.617.2) – is one of four mutated versions of the coronavirus which has been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.
Nevertheless when speaking at Bank of America Global Metals and Mining conference, Anglo American Chief Executive Officer, Mark Cutifani said the company portfolio is increasingly tilted towards future enabling products and those that need to decarbonise energy and transport in order to meet consumers’ needs – from home appliances, electronics and infrastructure, to food and luxury goods.
“We see material opportunity for Anglo American to continue to set itself apart in terms of the performance of our diversified business, further enhanced through sector-leading 25% volume growth over the next four years, led by copper and the platinum group metals,” said Cutifani.
“Most importantly, as the supplier of such critical materials, it is the duty of our industry to ensure that in everything we do, we act responsibly and deliver enduring value for our full breadth of stakeholders, including our planet.”