Former De Beers CFO to Head Firestone Amid Talks With Investors

Firestone Diamonds Plc appointed former De Beers Chief Financial Officer Stuart Brown to head the London-listed company as it holds discussions with potential investors in its Lesotho diamond development.

“We want to secure the funding as soon as possible and that will allow us to focus on the delivery,” Brown said in a phone interview. “I will be actively involved in that.”

Brown resigned as CFO of the biggest diamond producer in 2011, a month after it broke with tradition by hiring outsider Philippe Mellier as chief executive officer. Brown had been acting joint-CEO, after joining De Beers in 1992. He will become an executive director at Firestone next month before becoming CEO in December.

Firestone is seeking to raise money to fund the $167 million development of its Liqhobong mine in Lesotho. The company said last month it would seek to secure $65 million to $85 million in debt finance by the end of the year.

“We are focusing very much on project financing and the process is going well,” Chairman Lucio Genovese said in the telephone interview. “We are already in the process of discussions with several strategic partners. Those discussions are also progressing extremely well.”

Producers are struggling to find large new mines to replace falling output at the biggest operations as supplies of diamonds near the surface are depleted. They are seeking new supply to meet rising demand from China and India. Firestone, down 35 percent this year in London, plans about 1 million carats of output a year after it starts full production in 2015.

“The equity price reflects that there are a lot of doubts around our financing at this stage,” Genovese said. “We are making the necessary steps to strengthen the company.”

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