RAPAPORT... Gem Diamonds reported record earnings in 2011 driven by higher rough prices and increased production at its high-value Letšeng mine in Lesotho.
Revenues grew 49 percent year on year to $395.6 million and attributable net profit more than tripled to $67.7 million. Revenues include about $67.4 million worth of diamonds from the company’s downstream activities. Cost of sales increased 11 percent to $196.8 million.
“[The year] 2011 saw several exceptional diamond discoveries at Letšeng, including the 550 carat Letšeng Star (pictured), and we continue to see strong demand for our high quality diamonds from both developed and emerging markets, despite the backdrop of challenging times for the global economy,” said Clifford Elphick, the chief executive officer of Gem Diamonds.
Gem Diamonds noted that rough diamond prices rose sharply in the first half of 2011 but fell by about 30 percent in the third quarter due to the deepening Eurozone financial crisis and tightened bank liquidity, before stabilizing in the fourth quarter. Prices for rough diamonds overall ended the year approximately 16 percent higher than at the end of 2010, the company reported.
Elphick explained that there has been some restocking in the cutting centers following the U.S. holiday season, which was reflected in the continued strengthening of prices at both the Letšeng and Ellendale sales held so far in 2012. He added that there will likely be some volatility in rough prices in the first half of 2012 given the global economic uncertainties and as the market goes through a period of consolidation after the exceptional growth experienced since the 2008 financial crisis.
“From the middle of 2012, based on current supply expectations, rough diamond prices are expected to improve,” Elphick said.
Sales at Letšeng rose 58 percent to $300.6 million during 2011. The company sold 107,700 carats from the mine as the average price of sales from the mine grew 29 percent to $2,776 per carat. Sales included the 550 carat Letšeng Star which was sold into a partnership arrangement for $16.5 million, where Gem Diamonds will benefit directly from the sale of the resultant polished diamonds.
Letšeng’s production increased 24 percent to 112,367 carats during the year. The mine launched its $280 million expansion project in January, designed to raise annual production to about 200,000 carats by 2014.
Sales at Gem Diamonds’ Ellendale mine in Australia rose 15 percent to $89.4 million with the average price of the goods sold rising 54 percent to $731 per carat. The increase was driven by sales of Ellendale’s fancy yellow diamonds to Tiffany & Co, where the average price rose 53 percent to $4,409 per carat.
Ellendale’s production fell 28 percent to 120,302 carats in 2011. Gem Diamonds reported that processing challenges continued to be experienced at Ellendale and that the company continues to consider its options for the mine.
Gem Diamonds activities are focused on the Letšeng expansion and the development of its Gaghoo mine in Botswana. Phase 1 construction at Gaghoo started in 2011 and production is expected to commence in mid-2013.
“A substantial part of our efforts will of course also be directed at our two major growth projects as they continue to be implemented and we look forward to their contribution to Gem Diamonds’ performance,” Elphick said.
Gem Diamonds shares rose 1.8 percent to 286 pence in early Tuesday morning trade on the London Stock Exchange.