De Beers addresses staff on restructuring as Covid-19 accelerates modernisation push

Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers

PLANS to restructure De Beers are afoot with the diamond producer’s CEO, Bruce Cleaver due to address employees today regarding the proposals.

“Bruce and team are working through issues with De Beers staff,” said Mark Cutifani, CEO of Anglo American which has a 85% stake in the diamond producer.

Cutifani said proposed changes would tackle the entire De Beers business from the recovery of diamonds from the mines through to customers and marketing. “The whole strategy has been thought through quite well and we will articulate that in the next couple of days,” said Cutifani. He declined to say if jobs would be affected.

The imminence of De Beers restructuring was first reported by Bloomberg News which cited a letter drafted by Cleaver saying that the Covid-19 pandemic had accelerated the restructuring of the company. “Covid-19 has compounded and exacerbated difficulties that already existed in the diamond world,” Cleaver said in the letter.

“These difficulties, which have inhibited our growth over the past several years, have become even more urgent to address. They require us to act now to protect the short-term health of the business while refocusing and reorienting it to realise our long-term potential,” he said.

De Beers sold just $56m of rough diamonds in the second quarter, a 96% decline from sales a year earlier. The outcome for the first six months of the year was that the company made only a slim $2m contribution to Anglo’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $3.4bn.

Anglo’s basic headline share earnings came in at 49 US cents compared to $1.48/share in the comparative period. Profit attributable to shareholders was $500m for the six months, a heavy slide of 75% or nearly $1bn compared to $1.9bn in 2019.

Asked about distress in the diamond business, Cutifani said the sector would rebound rapidly as it had done in previous crises. He said a lack of new diamond discoveries, the imminent closure of Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine, the shuttering of other supply, and a rebound in China consumer demand provided the foundation for recovery.

“We don’t see any reason to do anything material on prices,” he said when asked if De Beers would make adjustments to ease the pressure on the mid-stream of the industry composed of diamond cutters and polishers. “We think the fundamentals are strong.”

BRANDING

Cutifani told investment analysts that the restructuring of De Beers would range from improving shovel operating productivity at mines such as Orapa in Botswana to its ForeverMark brand through which it sells directly to consumers.

“We want to invest in our brands; we want to invest in ForeverMark. We think we can get a fairer value if it gets the right brand,” said Cutifani.

Sightholders, the diamond cutters and polishers who buy unpolished diamonds from De Beers in ten ‘sights’ or sales meetings a year, are also part of the strategic re-evaluation of De Beers. “We are consulting them as part of the process,” said Cutifani.

“An important exercise will be who will get what and how we position ourselves in those conversations. The whole value-change needs to change and evolve to suit the times.”

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. “We think the fundamentals are strong”! This after a 96% drop in sales. Bruce must be nuts!

    They should close 50% of their operations asap or find a clever way to track and value diamonds so people looking for alternative investments can take an investment view of them and buy up execss stock.

  2. De Beers could have sold more probably, but need to maintain the long term price, Hence low sales. It’s not a surprise. As above there needs to be a strategic cut in production, a rebound will likely come for producers, when…when the next economic rebound comes. It’s just a cycle.

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