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De Beers Eases Buyer Terms Amid Market Slowdown

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JOSHUA FREEDMAN • 01-11-2022

De Beers will offer widened concessions to purchasers of larger rough diamonds at its upcoming sight as trading has slowed amid difficult market conditions.

The miner will increase its “buyback” allowance to 20% for 1-carat goods and up at the sale, which begins later this month, industry insiders told Rapaport News this week.

Buybacks are a mechanism enabling sightholders to sell 10% of stones back to De Beers after making their purchases. They are popular among clients when markets are weak, as customers can handpick the least profitable items and hope the miner will offer a good price. For De Beers, they provide a way of promoting sales without reducing prices.

Lockdowns in China and global economic uncertainty have spooked sections of the industry, with De Beers’ move reflecting a split in the market. Companies that usually buy 1-carat and larger rough destined for the Far East have reduced their purchasing, while top US and European brands continue to buy melee, supporting the trade in rough under 0.75 carats, dealers explained. In that context, the miner will maintain its usual 10% buyback allowance for rough under 1 carat.

“People actually did buy a lot [of the larger items] up till June [or] July this year, when they thought China would slowly start opening up again,” a market participant said. “That clearly hasn’t happened, and there are people now sitting on those goods.”

Sightholders are expecting De Beers’ next sales cycle — its ninth of the year — to bring the miner around $400 million after buybacks, compared with $500 million in September. The sight will run from October 31 to November 4. The December sight is also likely to be relatively small as southern African cutting factories shut for the holidays.

The October sight will take place amid the Diwali season in India, for which manufacturers are expected to implement extended production pauses of up to three weeks because of the sluggish market. Many of them have been trying to slash their inventories ahead of the holiday.

“De Beers is not too eager to reduce prices at this stage. I think they want to wait till early 2023 for that,” a sightholder predicted.

De Beers declined to comment.

Image: A rough diamond under analysis at KGK Diamonds’ Botswana cutting facility. (Ben Perry/Armoury Films/De Beers)

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