JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Diamond company De Beers last year delivered a revenue of $6.6-billion and earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) of $1.4-billion built on operational excellence across its producing assets.
Rough diamond production increased by 7% to 34.6-million carats, reflecting strong operational performance and higher planned levels of production to meet continued strong demand for rough diamonds, particularly in the first half of the year.
“I’m really proud to present an excellent set of results for De Beers for 2022,” said De Beers Group CFO Sarah Kuijlaars in a Zoom interview with Mining Weekly. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
“The great set of financial results is really a result of so much focused work from the 20 000 people that I work with within the De Beers family in a year of change.
“In addition to that very solid production, we’re also investing a lot of time and effort in some of the more strategic movers.
“We’ve got an exploration contract in Angola, we’ve accelerated TracrTM, which is our platform securing the identity of all our diamonds going into the system.
“The Tracr platform now takes on about half the rough diamonds on every site, so it’s really getting embedded in the way we do business, as our consumers are raising expectations from day to day about provenance and the confidence that we, from De Beers and from Tracr, can give to our end consumers,” said Kuijlaars.
In Botswana, the Debswana joint venture had exceptional operational excellence and uptime in the producing plants on both assets. Production was up 8% at 24.1-million carats on strong plant performances at Jwaneng and Orapa, as well as planned higher grade at Orapa.
In South Africa, Venetia diamond mine delivered outstanding carats ahead of its safe closure as an openpit, ahead of its transition to underground mining later this year. Production was up 4% at 5.5-million carats on the treatment of higher-grade ore from the final openpit cut.
In Namibia, the new vessel, Benguela Gem, which came on stream ahead of schedule, and ahead of budget, contributed to a 46% uptick in production to 2.1-million carats, also bolstered by the treatment of higher-grade ore at the Namibian land operations.
However, Canada had a tougher year, with production decreasing by 11% to 2.8-million carats on lower-grade ore and tight labour markets.
“It was very difficult to get people in and out, a very tight labour market, tight market with contractors, but the whole team is really focused on stabilising the performance there and contributing to 2023,” said Kuijlaars.
Mining Weekly: How strong has demand been in the US?
Kuijlaars: That’s a great question. I think it’s easy to forget how strong the demand was at the beginning of 2022. There was a real pent-up demand, particularly in the US, in the first quarter of 2022, but then, of course, sadly, a year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine, so a bit more uncertainty in the world, a bit more uncertainty around inflation, around cost of living. But through that, I think the demand has remained really robust, at about the same levels or just short of the same levels as 2021, which was really an outstanding year in terms of global demand. When we look at demand, an important part is in China and sadly 2022 was significantly impacted by Covid disruption with a lot of shutdowns in various cities in China, and understandably, luxury jewellery purchase wasn’t on the top of the list of our colleagues in China. India also had a very strong year in 2022.
How do you see the long-term fundamentals for diamonds?
It’s great to see the resilience of diamond demand. We all know we’re entering a period of a bit of uncertainty but we are cautiously optimistic that the resilience of the diamond market will continue. The natural diamond purchase is still very special to so many people around the globe, and longer term, we know that supply is limited and the demand will continue to grow, as our middle class continues to grow globally, and that demand for natural diamond continues.
What can we expect from Bruce Cleaver becoming co-chair and Al Cook taking up the position as CEO?
Yeah, so Al’s had a busy week this week but yeah, we’re all very fond of Bruce. He’s led De Beers over many years and been part of the De Beers family for many years. But I think it’s a great solution him stepping up as co-chair, which means he’ll still be around to give Al and the leadership team guidance. Bruce will be very much focused on maintaining continuity with our key stakeholders around the world, but also supporting as Al steps in as he’s come from a different industry. But I’m delighted that I have the opportunity to now work with both AI and Bruce – we get the best of both worlds.
The first half of 2022 saw largely positive trading conditions throughout the diamond pipeline; the year started with retailers restocking following strong consumer demand for diamond jewellery sales over the 2021 holiday season.
Healthy consumer demand, particularly in the US, led to polished price growth and robust demand for rough diamonds in the first half of the year, with De Beers’ focus on enhanced provenance assurance for its rough diamonds helping to underpin solid demand.
By June, the global economic picture was more uncertain, owing to interest rate increases by advanced economies’ central banks to combat accelerating inflation.
With a weaker economic outlook, consumer demand for diamond jewellery in the US softened in the second half of 2022, though it remained above pre-Covid-19 levels.
Amid this economic uncertainty, retailers restocked more cautiously, causing midstream polished diamond inventories to build up through the second half of the year, putting downward pressure on polished prices and softening demand for rough diamonds.
In China, the heightened Covid-19 restrictions from the second quarter onwards impacted diamond jewellery retail sales, resulting in negative demand growth for the year.
FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL REVIEW
Total 2022 revenue increasing to $6.6-billion from $5.6-billion the previous year was underpinned by diamond sales rising to $6-billion compared with $4.9-billion in 2021, reflecting strong demand for rough diamonds, particularly in the first half of the year, with the midstream replenishing stocks following strong consumer demand over the 2021 holiday season.
Rough diamond sales volumes totalled 30.4-million carats, down on the 33.4-million carats of 2021, but the average realised price rose by 35% to $197/ct, driven by growth in the rough price index, as well as selling a larger proportion of higher value rough diamonds in the first half of the year.
The average rough price index increased by 23%, reflecting overall positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery, particularly in the first half of the year.
The 29%-higher Ebitda reflected overall positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery. Unit costs were broadly flat at $59/ct compared with $58/ct in 2021, as rising inflation and higher input costs were offset by the benefits of higher production and favourable exchange rates.
Capital expenditure increased by 5% to $593-million largely owing to South Africa’s Venetia underground project, and the continued execution of life-extension projects, including Jwaneng Cut-9 in Botswana and at the Namibian land operations.
BRANDS AND CONSUMER TRENDS
Despite the near-term economic uncertainty, De Beers Jewellers have continued to focus on developing their geographic footprint in China, with underlying demand for branded diamond jewellery expected to remain strong following the removal of Covid-19-related restrictions.
OPERATIONAL AND MARKET OUTLOOK
Early indications are that the 2022 holiday season was robust, with diamond jewellery sales remaining above pre-Covid-19 levels, though below the record level seen in 2021.
However, continued softening in global macroeconomic conditions could see a contraction in consumer spending and demand for diamond jewellery, which may result in lower demand for rough diamonds in the near term. This may be partly mitigated by an increase in demand for diamond jewellery in China, following the removal of Covid-19 restrictions in late 2022.
Consumer desire for natural diamonds remains robust in key consumer markets, and over the medium term the global supply of rough diamonds is expected to decline slightly owing to limited new discoveries, supporting the value growth potential for natural diamonds.
Production guidance for 2023 is 30-million carats to 33-million carats (100% basis), subject to trading conditions. Unit cost guidance for 2023 is about $80/ct, De Beers stated in a release to Mining Weekly.