De Beers Group says most of its net end consumers are still intact financially, and stand ready to demand its luxury and magnificent offerings in diamond jewellery.
A study conducted by the diamond mining global giant during COVID-19 lockdown suggests that over two thirds of jewellery buyers still have the financial capacity to purchase the sparkling downstream products.
De Beers, which sources most of its diamonds from Botswana, is present in all segments of the diamond business, Upstream where it mines diamonds in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Canada; Midstream where it sorts, values and sells rough diamonds, by in large in Botswana, at the Global Sightholder sales.
The company also has a strong presence in the downstream which comprises of retail. DeBeers operates in this space through Forevermark, a retail brand of jewellery made from natural, hand selected rare diamonds.
Following a promising recovery from slow year in 2019, De Beers Group and the entire diamond industry then faced a catastrophic down cliff as a result of the novel Coronavirus which put breaks on almost everything in the first half of 2020.
The novel contagious plague sprang out of China in December 2019, and then intensified in February, putting the entire world at a standstill, shutting down businesses and restricting movement of, people, goods and commodities whilst also caging people in their houses for months.
De Beers’ second sight fell by about 36 % from the first sales of the year and 25 % when gauged against the same sight in 2019. This was mainly due to slow business in China where corona virus broke in the city of Wuhan.
After the United States, China is De Beers’ second biggest market. Business was also slow in India and Belgium, which houses some of the world largest centers of diamond cutting and polishing industries.
However findings from recent surveys by the diamond mining unit of Anglo-American suggests there might be some positive from the worldwide lockdowns. The London headquarters, once diamond business monopoly says consumers have introspected during these lockdowns.
According to De Beers the introspection at the need for things that matter, that represents love and values life more, something which diamond and diamond products stand for.
A research undertaken over a period of nine weeks by De Beers Group suggests that consumers in the US will reassess their purchasing behavior in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It says gifts that are meaningful and that retain their value will be the priority as people emerge from lockdown.
The research demonstrated that lockdown had made many consumers feel grateful for things they used to take for granted, such as spending time with family, and that this would influence their purchasing and gifting behavior in future.
When it came to gifting and in particular looking forward to the holiday season, 56 percent of respondents from the survey felt gifts should be meaningful, over and above being practical, functional or fun.
This research which will make part of the upcoming diamond insights states that Diamonds were seen as the top gift for symbolizing intimacy, connectedness and love among both men and women, with the primary desire for purchasing being a reflection of gratitude and acknowledgement during the current crisis.
Ninety percent of respondents said that choosing gifts that hold their value over time would be an important consideration this holiday season, and more people chose diamonds as the top choice for a gift of this nature from a list of luxury items including designer clothing and accessories, electronic devices, a piece of furniture, or other jewellery.
The findings are the first in a series of Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Reports that De Beers Group will publish to share insights regarding the evolving consumer perspective and what it means for diamonds as the world passes through the stages of the COVID-19 crisis.
The mining behemoth also found that around two-thirds of the consumers polled indicated their personal finances have not been affected by COVID-19. Three-quarters of consumers said that COVID-19 had not impacted their likelihood to purchase diamond jewellery and the majority of respondents continued to wear their diamond jewellery during lockdown because it made them ‘feel connected to someone’.
De Beers says consumers felt safest shopping for jewellery online; however, they clearly distinguished local independent jewellers as the best source for knowledge and product quality, as well as being considered the safest of all the physical outlets for jewellery shopping.
Forty-five percent of respondents said that they would seek to buy fewer, better things when considering clothing and jewellery purchases after the lockdown. Consumer preference for travel continues to show a declining trend, with 39 percent of consumers saying it will be seven to 12 months before their travel spending stabilizes.
Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, said: “The COVID-19 crisis and associated lockdowns have caused people all around the world to re-evaluate aspects of what’s important in their lives and have reinforced the value of personal relationships.”
The London based diamond industry gaffer said while consumer confidence and spending has been significantly impacted in the US diamonds will nonetheless have a unique role to play in people’s lives in a post-lockdown world as they seek to celebrate their most meaningful relationships
“While it will take some time for the market to recover fully, we hope these insights will assist large and independent jewellery retailers alike to understand the evolving consumer perspective as we move through and emerge from the crisis,” said Cleaver.
Botswana has recorded its first trade surplus for 2021 since the only one for the year in January.
The country’s exports for the month of July surpassed the value of imports, Statistics Botswana’s July International Merchandise Trade data reveals.
Released last Friday, the monthly trade digest reports a positive jump in the trade balance graph against the backdrop of a series of trade deficits in the preceding months since January this year.
According to the country’s significant data body, imports for the month were valued at P7.232 billion, reflecting a decline of 6.6 percent from the revised June 2021 value of P7.739 billion.
Total exports during the same month amounted to P7.605 billion, showing an increase of 6.1 percent over the revised June 2021 value of P7.170 billion.
A trade surplus of P373.2 million was recorded in July 2021. This follows a revised trade deficit of P568.7 million for June 2021.
For the total exports value of P7.605 billion, the Diamonds group accounted for 91.2 percent (P6.936 billion), followed by Machinery & Electrical Equipment and Salt & Soda Ash with 2.2 percent (P169.7 million) and 1.3 percent (P100.9 million) respectively.
Asia was the leading destination for Botswana exports, receiving 65.2 percent (P4.96 billion) of total exports during July 2021.
These exports mostly went to the UAE and India, having received 26.3 percent (P1. 99 billion) and 18.7 percent (P1.422 billion) of total exports, respectively. The top most exported commodity to the regional block was Diamonds.
Exports destined to the European Union amounted to P1.64 billion, accounting for 21.6 percent of total exports.
Belgium received almost all exports destined to the regional union, acquiring 21.5 percent (P1.6337 billion) of total exports during the reporting period.
The Diamonds group was the leading commodity group exported to the EU. The SACU region received exports valued at P790.7 million, representing 10.4 percent of total exports.
Diamonds and Salt & Soda Ash commodity groups accounted for 37.8 percent (P298.6 million) and 6.2 percent (P48.7 million) of total exports to the customs union.
South Africa received 9.8 percent (P745.0 million) of total exports during the month under review. The Diamonds group contributed 39.9 percent (P297.4 million) to all goods destined for the country.
In terms of imports, the SACU region contributed 62.7 percent (P4.534 billion) to total imports during July.
The topmost imported commodity groups from the SACU region were Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco, and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with contributions of 33.3 percent (P1.510 billion), 17.4 percent (P789.4 million) and 12.7 percent (P576.7 million) to total imports from the region, respectively.
South Africa contributed 60.1 percent (P4.3497 billion) to total imports during July 2021.
Fuel accounted for 32.1 percent (P1.394 billion) of imports from that country. Food, Beverages & Tobacco contributed 17.7 percent (P772.0 million) to imports from South Africa.
Namibia contributed 2.0 percent (P141.1 million) to the overall imports during the period under review. Fuel was the main commodity imported from that country at 82.1 percent (P115.8 million).
During the months, imports representing 63.5 percent (P4.5904 billion) were transported into the country by Road.
Transportation of imports by Rail and Air accounted for 22.7 percent (P1.645 billion) and 13.8 percent (P996.2 million), respectively.
During the month, goods exported by Air amounted to P6, 999.2 million, accounting for 92.0 percent of total exports, while those leaving the country by Road were valued at P594.2 million (7.8 percent).
Founders from twenty companies have been accepted into the program from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa
The 4th Cohort of the Stanford Seed Transformation Program – Southern Africa (STP), a collaboration between Stanford Graduate School of Business and De Beers Group commenced classes on 20 September 2021. According to Otsile Mabeo, Vice President Corporate Affairs, De Beers Global Sightholder Sales: “We are excited to confirm that 20 companies have been accepted into the 4th Seed Transformation Programme from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. The STP is an important part of the De Beers Group Building Forever sustainability strategy and demonstrates our commitment to the ‘Partnering for Thriving Communities’ pillar that aims at enhancing enterprise development in countries where we operate in the Southern African region”. Jeffrey Prickett, Global Director of Stanford Seed: “Business owners and their key management team members undertake a 12-month intensive leadership program that includes sessions on strategy and finance, business ethics, and design thinking, all taught by world-renowned Stanford faculty and local business practitioners. The program is exclusively for business owners and teams of for-profit companies or for-profit social enterprises with annual company revenues of US$300,000 – US$15million.” The programme will be delivered fully virtually to comply with COVID 19 protocols. Out of the 20 companies, 6 are from Botswana, 1 Namibia, and 13 South Africa. Since the partnership’s inception, De Beers Group and Stanford Seed have supported 74 companies, 89 founders/CEOs, and approximately 750 senior-level managers to undertake the program in Southern Africa.
Minergy, the coal mining and trading company with the Masama coal mine, this week released results for the year ended 30 June 2021. The company achieved revenue of P193 million (2020: P81 million) with significant improvement in sales volumes surpassing 415 000 tonnes sold for the year.
The performance was divided into two distinct periods with very different operating environments. The first eight-month period (July 2020 – February 2021), was negatively impacted by delayed funding, COVID-19 impacts and excessive rain; and the last four-month period (March – June 2021), was a more stable production environment moving toward nameplate capacity.
According to Minergy CEO, Morné du Plessis, production and sales initially recovered in July and August 2020 with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and recoveries were further bolstered by the successful launch of the rail siding. Delays experienced in concluding the funding contributed to contractors limiting operations to manage arrears.
“However, the heavy rains we experienced from December 2020 through February 2021 flooded the mine pit making access difficult and impacting both production and sales. Fortunately, the rain subsided in March 2021, and we entered a more stable environment, with a positive impact on operations. Good recoveries in production and sales were experienced during the last four-month period of the year, with the mine moving closer toward a breakeven position.”
“Despite these operational constraints, including the effects of COVID-19 on logistics and manning of shifts, we expect to reach consistent nameplate capacity in the 2022 financial year,” du Plessis added.
In addition to the revenue reported above, the company incurred costs of sales of P256 million (2020: P150 million) with operating costs of P23 million (2020: P31 million). This effectively resulted in an operating loss of P86 million (2020: P100 million). Finance costs of P51 million (2020: P17 million) were incurred, bringing the net loss before taxation to P136 million (2020: P117 million).
Du Plessis explains that the adverse conditions in the first eight-month period contributed to 86% of the gross loss, while the more stable four-month period alone contributed to 50% of total sales value, helping to decrease monthly gross losses, albeit below breakeven levels.
The company benefited from a strengthening in the South African Rand (“ZAR”) supporting higher back-on- mine sales prices.
“As announced, we’re pleased to have secured P125 million of additional convertible debt funding through the Minerals Development Company Botswana (Proprietary) Limited (“MDCB”). Minergy remains grateful for this support.”
He added that the first tranche of additional funding provided by the MDCB had been received in December 2020, which allowed Minergy to settle the majority of the contractor’s arrears and allowed their teams to be remobilised. The second and final tranche was paid post the financial year-end and will allow the business to reach nameplate capacity in the new financial year.”
COAL SALES AND MINE PERFORMANCE
Sales volumes increased by 110%, supported by increased sales in Botswana and internationally in South Africa and Namibia. Sales for June 2021 exceeded 56 000 tonnes, a record since the inception of the mine, with pricing increasing late in the financial year on the back of buoyant international prices and a strengthening ZAR.
Minergy also concluded a further 12-month off-take agreement to the existing off-take agreement, with a further agreement finalised post year end.
Overburden moved during the reporting period increased by 86% and extracted coal by 50%. Coal mined in June 2021 alone exceeded 100 000 tonnes. “This is a good performance considering the challenges faced such as sacrificing pre-stripping activities for a period to manage arrears, excessive rain and COVID-19,” du Plessis indicated.
“The wash plant was initially starved of coal due to the factors noted already. Despite this, overall plant throughput performance was 37% higher than 2020. Consistent output was supported by the completion of the Stage 2 rigid crushing section as well as the water saving dewatering screen with filter press contributing to a reduction in water usage of 60% per tonne of coal. A record throughput of more than 84 000 tonnes was achieved in March 2021 and this consistency has been maintained.”
According to du Plessis, the completion of Stage 4 of the Processing Plant, the rigid screening and stock handling section, remains a key optimisation step, which has associated benefits. “The completion was unfortunately delayed by a southern African wide shortage of structural steel but was commissioned post year-end.”
Minergy expects the positive momentum in international coal pricing for southern African coal to remain in place. Higher coal prices have resulted in coal being withdrawn from the inland market in favour of lucrative international markets. Du Plessis added that the regional market is currently under- supplied with sized coal, which supports higher pricing and new customer opportunities for Minergy.
“Our objective for the 2022 financial year is to achieve nameplate capacity by completing final ramp-up of operations. This will enable the company to generate sufficient cash flow to stabilise the business at breakeven or better. The bullish coal market is also providing support. COVID-19 will still be closely managed, and we look forward to the lifting of the State of Emergency, as announced, and trust that vaccination programmes will achieve herd immunity in Botswana during the next 12 months.”
Du Plessis expressed his excitement on prospects stating that, “The Eskom due diligence process is continuing, and we are hopeful of receiving feedback during the current financial year. In addition to this opportunity, Minergy is also investigating participation in the request by the Government of Botswana to provide a 300MW power station for which the company has been shortlisted.”
The approved process to issue shares for cash is showing positive leads and he concluded by saying that a listing in London is still being investigated.