De Beers rough diamond sales plunge 13%

ROUGH diamond sales by De Beers' Consolidated Mines, the diamond giant, dropped 13 per cent in 1992 to dollars 3.42bn ( pounds 2.22bn), their lowest level in five years.

However, the drop in sales for the second half, also 13 per cent, was slightly better than market expectations and helped De Beers shares to rise 68p to pounds 12.37.

The group's Central Selling Organisation, the London-based body that markets 80 per cent of the world's diamonds, said it had maintained its traditional role of balancing supply and demand by keeping gems from the market. This had kept diamond prices firm and cutting-centre stocks and bank borrowings at reasonable levels.

World retail sales of diamond jewellery held up in 1992 and are expected to be in line with 1991 sales in dollar terms, the CSO said. Early signs from pre-Christmas sales were ahead of last year in the US but behind in Japan. 'Everything is a function of retail sales and the world economy in 1993,' a De Beers spokesman said.

In 1992, illicit diamond smuggling from Angola and recession hurt De Beers, prompting its pessimistic assessment of prospects in August. The company had to cut purchases from producers by 25 per cent in September.

Steve Oke of Smith New Court said its prospects could improve in 1993 with the unfortunate resumption of fighting in Angola and if the diamond industry builds stocks. Vincent Tattersall of the brokers James Capel forecast 1993 diamond sales at dollars 3.8bn.

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