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1990: Diamond Inventory of De Beers Aims at Selling Rough Diamonds

November 1999

Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers, has told the press he wants to cut its inventory in half.

Oppenheimer said the company plans to cut its $4.6 billion diamond stockpile by $1.5 to $2 billion this year. A De Beers spokesman said that “the working stock levels in London will be cut over some time” and said the company wants to boost shareholder value by generating cash flows from the sales of gems held in its vaults. “It’s part of our strategic plan,” he said.

We wonder why exactly Oppenheimer and De Beers made this announcement. It couldn’t be simply to help its stock, since the share price has been doing perfectly fine lately, and stockholders don‘t have much to complain about.

One Russian newspaper believed it was a political move against producers. “The leak from De Beers headquarters suggested that a total of $2.5 billion worth of rough stones may be dumped by the corporation on the market,” it said. “Information leaks on the subject are most likely to have been initiated by none other than De Beers with the aim of intimidating high-handed market participants. This is primarily true of Russian diamond producers who have repeatedly stated that they were ready to independently sell rough diamonds on the world market all by themselves.”

In any case, we wonder if the stock sale will apply to the brown type IIa diamonds De Beers has been storing away in its vaults for 20 years when it discovered they could be treated without a trace. Now that Lazare Kaplan is using those stones for color-whitening, could there be a willing seller and a willing buyer?

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