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De Beers 1H Revenue +74%

Rough Prices Back to 2008 Levels

Jul 23, 2010 6:04 AM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... De Beers Group's sales for the first half of 2010 rose 74 percent year on year to $2.98 billion. The company reported net earnings of $255 million, up from the $3 million it posted for the first half of 2009.

De Beers registered underlying earnings — i.e., operating earnings — of $304 million, compared with the $164 million it posted one year ago.  (Download De Beers first-half results as a PDF.)

First-half sales for the firm's Diamond Trading Company (DTC) were up 84 percent year over year to $2.6 billion. Price increases and strong demand from China and India played significant roles in these improved sales. DTC stated that rough prices are now, "on average," comparable with those achieved in June of 2008.

At the end of the first half, De Beers net debt stood at $1.98 billion, down from the $3.2 billion it recorded six months ago, while its third-party debt totaled $1.87 billion, a 40 percent decline against the $3.09 billion it posted for December 2009.

The company's production rose 134 percent year on year to 15.4 million carats. During the first half, the Venetia mine produced 2 million carats, Jwaneng produced 5.3 million carats  and Orapa recovered 4.3 million carats.  De Beers Canada produced 782,000 carats, while Namdeb recovered 794,000 carats. Debswana’s Cut-8, the major expansion project at the Jwaneng mine, commenced during this period.

Consumer demand for diamonds rose strongly across China and India, but only modestly, if that, in the U.S., according to De Beers. The brand Forevermark  has expanded to 289 doors in China, Hong Kong and Japan. Much of this growth can be attributed to Mainland China, where the brand has been rolled out to ten cities, with plans for further expansion this year. 

De Beers Diamond Jewellers, De Beers joint venture with LVMH, has also achieved a healthy sales rebound. Element Six had a strong first half, with all business lines contributing to the improved performance and profitability.

The company also reported that it was evaluating the recent federal appeals court ruling on the U.S. class action case against De Beers. As Rapaport News reported on July 14, this case was returned to the District Court of New Jersey with an order to better define the suit's classes. The District Court is now required, amongst other things, to consider whether or not it can properly approve a settlement comprised of a smaller class of plaintiffs. During the first half, a class action suit was also filed against De Beers in Canada. For both that and the existing class action suit already underway in British Columbia, De Beers stated that it was following the usual legal process.

De Beers held its board meeting on July 22, at which time Gareth Penny announced his departure as chief executive officer (CEO). Penny has been with De Beers for 22 years, serving in various roles. In related news, board directors Anthony Oppenheimer and Sir Chips Keswick retired after nearly 30 years and 17 years of service with the group, respectively, with both initially serving as directors of De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM). James Teeger will assume the chairmanship of the board audit and remuneration committees.

Nicky Oppenheimer, the chairman of De Beers Group, said, "This time last year, in the midst of the global recession, we transformed our business — taking short-term pain for long-term gain. One year later, our results for the first half of 2010 show the success we’ve had in managing costs, creating operating efficiencies and improving our balance sheet. With renewed demand driving significant increases in production, prices and sales, we are now focused on securing the recovery while insulating the business from further market volatility."

Oppenheimer added, “These results are a testament to Gareth Penny’s leadership, which saw the company through the recession, and positioned it for strong revenue growth as we emerged into recovery. Gareth has made an enormous contribution to De Beers throughout his 22 years with the company and most recently, five years as CEO. He has been a passionate and effective leader during some of the most difficult challenges De Beers has faced in its long history. I have full confidence in the experienced management team that Gareth has assembled, who will carry on our current course to deliver shareholder value.”


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