De Beers Said to Cut Diamond Prices as Much as 9%

Inside A Komehyo Co. Jewelry Store As Aging Japanese Swap Old Diamonds For Yen From Eager China Buyers
Akio Kon/Bloomberg
  • De Beers had sought to buoy demand with production cuts
  • Analyst says industry is in `very precarious position'

De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond producer, lowered prices after production cuts failed to support demand for the precious stones, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The Anglo American Plc unit reduced prices as much as 9 percent, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the information isn’t public. De Beers plans to offer about $250 million of diamonds for sale. Customers may buy more after the price cuts, the people said.

The company has already agreed to allow its customers, known as sightholders, to defer pre-agreed purchases at the August sale this week in Botswana, the biggest diamond producing country. A spokesman for De Beers declined to comment.

De Beers and other diamond producers are under pressure to cut supply and lower prices as traders, cutters and polishers struggle to turn a profit amid a squeeze on credit and languishing jewelry sales. De Beers had sought to support the diamond market by reducing production rather than prices.

“The industry is in a very precarious position, it could go either way,” said Kieron Hodgson, an analyst at Panmure Gordon in London. “De Beers have recognized that and responded.”

The industry remains stretched by a shortage of credit after last year’s decision by KBC Groep NV to wind down its Antwerp Diamond Bank, a source of finance for 80 years to cutters and polishers in the port city. Retail demand has also suffered amid a slowdown in China, the second-biggest market for the stones.

De Beers last month cut its full-year production goal to 29 million to 31 million carats from an earlier target of 30 million to 32 million carats. At the start of the year, it was planning to mine as much as 34 million carats. Anglo American owns 85 percent of De Beers, with Botswana controlling the rest.

The turmoil in the $80 billion diamond industry has added to the woes of Anglo American, whose shares on Monday tumbled to a 15-year low amid a rout in copper, coal and iron-ore prices. Diamonds accounted for about a quarter of the company’s sales last year.

The commodities slump has undermined the efforts of Mark Cutifani, Anglo’s chief executive officer, to turn around the fortunes of a business that mines platinum and diamonds in Africa and iron ore in Brazil. To preserve cash, Anglo plans to sell coal, platinum and copper assets and intends to reduce its workforce by more than a third.

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