Wednesday, July 17, 2024

De Beers faces headwinds, remains resilient

Top diamond mining giant De Beers is navigating the cyclical diamond industry which has taken a downturn, with the company’s revenue and profit slumping amid economic headwinds.

Rough diamond production was broadly flat in the first half of 2023, coming at 16.5 million carats against last year’s half year production of 6.9 million carats, with strong operational performance in most regions offset by the planned reduction in South Africa as the Venetia open pit transitions to underground operations.

In Botswana, production increased by 9 percent to 12.7 million carats, driven by the planned treatment of higher grade ore at Orapa. Namibia production increased by 21 percent to 1.2 million carats, primarily driven by the contribution from the Benguela Gem vessel, which commenced production in March 2022, and the ongoing ramp-up and expansion of the mining area at the land operations.

South Africa production decreased by 59 percent to 1.2 million carats due to the planned completion of the Venetia open pit in December 2022. Venetia continues to process lower grade surface stockpiles, which will result in temporary lower production levels as it transitions to underground operations, where first production was recently achieved, according to De Beers. It will ramp-up over the next few years as development continues.

Production in Canada increased by 9 percent to 1.4 million carats as the treatment of higher grade ore offset planned plant maintenance.

On the financial performance, total revenue dropped to $2.8 billion from 2022’s half year revenue of $3.6 billion, with 2023 mid-year rough diamond sales decreasing to $2.5 billion against $3.3 billion from the comparable period, reflecting the softening in demand.

Costs also soared for the diamond mining giant. The capital expenditure increased by 21 percent to $302 million from 2022’s half year capex of  $250 million, largely due to the Venetia underground project as well as the continued execution of life-extension projects.

In the end, De Beers reported  underlying earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) crushed to  63 percent, slumping to $347 million from $944 million garnered from 2022’s first half, weighed down by higher inflation and input costs.

“The high levels of polished diamond inventory in the midstream coming into 2023, as well as the ongoing macro-economic headwinds, impacted demand for rough diamonds,” Paul Rowley, executive president of diamond trading at De Beers, said during a media briefing.

“The anticipated rebound in Chinese demand following the removal of Covid-19 restrictions was impacted by a large wave of infections during the first quarter of 2023, which dampened consumer confidence. Amid the slow polished sector during the first half of 2023, midstream inventories have continued to build, with profitability under strain from softening polished prices and higher financing costs,” he said.

Rowley said macroeconomic conditions are expected to remain challenging over the near term, impacting consumer spending on diamond jewellery.

“Despite near term challenges faced by the diamond industry, our research confirms consumers’ desire for natural diamonds, which is expected to remain robust in key consumer markets in the long term. The global supply of rough diamonds is expected to decline owing to limited new discoveries, which in turn is expected to support value growth potential for natural diamonds.”

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