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De Beers kicks off “diamonds from DTC” provenance claim

This week De Beers announced that diamonds which will be purchased from the current Sight of 2019 which is the third and runs from April 1 to 5, and onwards, where customers can refer to stones purchased from the giant mining company as “diamonds from DTC” across the value chain down to the end-consumer level.

According to De Beers, Sightholders and Accredited Buyers will be able to use the “diamonds from DTC” provenance claim across the value chain down to the consumer level, and will be able to provide assurance on its validity through certifying the claim under the Responsible Jewellery Council standards, or through an independent third-party audit. The “diamonds from DTC” provenance claim will add glitter to the ever sparkling Botswana’s diamond-led development story. Diamonds from Botswana contribute to 27 percent or US$ 4.4 billion of the GDP.

In Botswana De Beers has four companies in diamond business; De Beers Holdings, Debswana, Diamond Trading Company Botswana and De Beers Global Sightholder Sales. De Beers Holdings is the exploration arm and is currently focused on early stage exploration programmes in Tsabong, Orapa, Palapye and Kang. Debswana, a 50/50 joint venture between De Beers and the Government, is the primary producer of diamonds in Botswana.

The Diamond Trading Company Botswana, also a 50/50 joint venture between De Beers and the Government, sorts and values the rough diamonds mined by Debswana. De Beers Global Sightholder Sales is responsible for selling the bulk of De Beers’ global production to its rough diamond customers, known as Sightholders. In 2013, De Beers moved this international sales operation from London to Gaborone, resulting in growth in the volume of diamonds traded in Botswana to about US$6 billion, leading to a boost to employment, as well as downstream and other support services.

“We are proud of where our diamonds are discovered, how we recover them responsibly and the role our activities play in building thriving communities. By enabling our customers to share the source of origin of our diamonds, we hope to drive further transparency throughout the diamond value chain,” said De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver this week.

According to De Beers, the “diamonds from DTC” provenance claim will offer greater significance than many other industry provenance claims, as it not only states corporate provenance, but is also supported by the provision of sustainability performance and transparency information on each of the mines of origin

Diamonds from DTC Botswana journey

Exploration of diamonds is done entirely by De Beers. Mining or production is done at Debswana, a 50/50 joint venture between De Beers and the Government, which owns mines: Jwaneng, Letlhakane, Orapa and Damtshaa. Thirteen percent of Debswana production is made available by Okavango Diamond Company, a rough diamond distribution entity which is 100 percent owned by Botswana government. Most of the Botswana diamonds are transferred to De Beers Global Sightholders Sales.

De Beers Global Sightholders Sales sells around 90 per cent of De Beers’ rough diamonds by value, via term contracts to customers known as Sightholders, at events called Sights. Rough diamonds from these mines will then be sorted and valued by the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTC Botswana) another 50/50 Joint Venture partnership between the Government of the Republic of Botswana and De Beers.After being valued and sorted by DTC Botswana, rough diamonds will then be sold to Sightholders or Accredited Buyers-these are a select group of clients which are certified by De Beers to be demonstrating high financial integrity and sufficient demand for rough diamonds.

In Botswana there are 20 Sightholders who have established cutting and polishing diamonds in Gaborone. De Beers sell rough diamonds through ‘Sights’ to these Sightholders or Accredited Buyers. Rough diamonds can also be sold via online auction sales. Sights which comes after every five weeks and last up for a week, the coming one slated for April 1 to 5(third one of this year), are held 10 times a year in Botswana (and Namibia and South Africa), where customers will inspect their rough diamond allocations before deciding whether to purchase them. Diamonds will then be cut and polished by diamentaires before being sold to jewelers and other retailers around the world.

Skepticism dresses the 3rd Sight 


Towards the current Sight which ran this week, diamond experts around the world expected rough diamond prices to drop to drop 1 percent to 2 percent in the first half of 2019. These analysts also expected the prices to recover then end 2019 flat. London based analyst Kieron Hodgson told diamond publisher Rapaport that prices rose to 2 percent last year due to a strong first half, but the market slowed in the second half. According to Hodgson, production rose over the last two years and this led to supply outweighing demand especially in smaller categories.

According to Rapaport Weekly Market Comment, sentiment weakens after soft first quarter and dealers are avoiding large inventory purchases, and manufacturers on the other hand are reducing supply. The publication says miners are bracing for tough year as first-quarter sales decline an estimated 30 percent “Rough market under pressure, with some analysts optimistically predicting flat rough prices in 2019. Sightholders hoping profit margins will improve after next week’s sight,” says the comment.

Jewelers International Showcase

As a biggest diamond producing country backed by De Beers which is a big player in the industry, Botswana diamonds end products are expected to be among ones to be exhibited at the Jewelers International Showcase(JIS)-the second largest jewelry show in the Wstern Hemisphere. The JIS is slated for April 16-18 at the Miami Beach Convention Centre in the state of Florida, USA.

The Surat trade mission

Many diamantaries are expected to converge at the Indian city of Surat where they will be provided with an unprecedented opportunity for members of the diamond and jewelry trade to meet and interact with the diamond cutters, dealers and market makers in the world’s largest diamond cutting center. Surat is home to an estimated 500,000 diamond cutters, who manufacture over 90 percent of the world’s polished diamonds. The trip to Surat will be on April 8 to 11.

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Diamond industry crises not over yet – De Beers Chief

13th January 2021
De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer: Bruce Cleaver

Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry  started gaining  positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into  thanks giving and holiday season.

However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.

The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.

The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.

This halted movement of buyers and shipment of  the rough goods , resulting  in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn  ballooning stockpiles as the upstream  operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.

The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.

However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.

De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.

Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.

De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.

“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.

The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.

The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.

Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.

“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.

In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”

All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.

After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.

However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.

Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.

These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.

For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.

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Gov’t coffers depleting to record low levels 

13th January 2021
Dr Matsheka

Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.

The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering  the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.

The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.

National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.

As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.

On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is  prevailing,  the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.

According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.

However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion.  The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.

 

When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a budget deficits.

This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.

Cumulatively, since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances.

Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.

Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.

Meanwhile  should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian  aids and international donors, because  foreign reserves are also on slow down.

During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.

The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020.  This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.

The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.

However latest statistics(October 2020)  from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with  government’s share of these funds significantly low.

Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.

Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up  from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.

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Cresta signs lease agreement for Phakalane golf estate hotel. continues with growth agenda despite covid-19 impact

13th January 2021

Botswana Stock Exchange listed hotel group Cresta Marakanelo Limited (“CML” or “the Company”) announced the signing of a lease agreement for Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Convention Centre, which will see CML extend its footprint by adding the 4 star Gaborone property to its already impressive portfolio.  The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals therefore the effective date of the transaction is expected to be 1 February 2021.

 

CML brings a wealth of expertise to the lease and despite the difficult year for the tourism and hospitality industry, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CML remains confident in the recovery of the sector and the need to invest in expanding the Company’s footprint.

CML Managing Director, Mr Mokwena Morulane commented: “Our continued efforts to improve our offerings, understand the market dynamics and modern day trends in the face of global challenges, means we are ready for the changing face of tourism and international travel, and this addition to the Cresta portfolio signals our confidence in the future.  

 

“Despite the headwinds faced in 2020, Management has continued to focus on projects that enhance CML’s product offering such as the refurbishments at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa in the tourism capital Kasane and the ongoing refurbishment of Cresta Marang Residency in Francistown. The signing of the lease for the 4 star Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Conference Centre is a great addition to the Cresta portfolio and will unlock shareholder value in the future.

 

“We remain vigilant to value-enhancing opportunities including acquisitions or leases, after having reconsidered our pipeline against current and expected market conditions.”  

 

Commenting on the lease agreement, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr S Parthiban, speaking on behalf of Phakalane  noted; “No hotel chain holds as much expertise in the region, understands our local culture and tastes and what hospitality is about better than Cresta Marakanelo Limited. We believe that the renovations done to the property has made Phakalane Hotel and Convention Centre a unique product in Botswana and at par with international facilities.  We believe that this lease will benefit not only us as Phakalane , but the market in general as Cresta has run hotels successfully in Botswana for over 30 years and is therefore expected to bring new offerings that appeal to the local and international markets as well as the residents and visitors to the Golf Estate. We look forward to a long mutually beneficial relationship with Cresta.” 

 

CML like the rest of the tourism and hospitality industry and the entire value chain was hard hit by lockdowns  with the surge of COVID-19. By investing during the low period, the company hopes to realise the future value of spending time in preparing for the new consumer dynamics and behaviour.  Despite business interruptions as a result of a six-month long state of emergency and several lock-down periods declared by the Government of Botswana to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Company is starting to record an increase in occupancies, which bodes well for the recovery of the industry and the Company’s future prospects.

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