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March 2000

De Beers has been re-buffed by the U.S. Justice Department after it attempted to discuss 60-year-old anti-trust charges.

According to the Financial Times, De Beers Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer sought a meeting with U.S. Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein to discuss the issues that keep De Beers from operating in the

U.S. But the Justice Department declined the meeting.

Still, De Beers Spokesman Andy Lamont told Gemkey news service that the U.S. situation is a “serious constraint on the way that De Beers does business” and wants it resolved. “Our effort didn’t work this time, but we recognize that it will be a long time to resolve,” he said.

In a way, the trade is probably relieved that De Beers won’t be entering the U.S. anytime soon. One of the reasons people are afraid of De Beers “branding” is they think De Beers will eventually vertically integrate and perhaps enter the retail market.

South African analyst Hilton Ashton even speculated that “the initiative could be the result of a De Beers decision to start operating in the retail markets.” But other analysts believe that De Beers will have to change its current structure — including possibly spin off the Central Selling Organization — if it wants to come into the U.S.

Ashton said that entering the U.S. would mean big gains for De Beers stock, as it would mean more U.S. investors buying its shares.

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