De Beers diamond sales rose 7% in 2003

De Beers recently said sales of rough diamonds climbed 7% in 2003 to $5.5 billion—helped by strong growth in the second half of the year as the world economy and consumer confidence rebounded.

That demand was expected to continue in 2004, the company added.

De Beers reported headline earnings of $676 million compared with $575 million in 2002 and said its contribution to mining giant Anglo American’s headline earnings would be $386 million. Anglo owns 45% of De Beers.

A strong rand pushed up costs and ate into profits at many South African mining companies in 2003 and De Beers cut more than 400 jobs last year in an effort to reduce costs, Reuters reports.

De Beers reportedly said it had changed its management structure ready for the sale of an equity stake in its South African operations—in line with government requirements that mining firms do more to increase black ownership in an industry still dominated by whites a decade after the end of white-minority rule.

It said Jonathan Oppenheimer would replace Gary Ralfe as managing director of De Beers Consolidated Mines and Gareth Penny would become managing director of The Diamond Trading Company.

Ralfe, who remains managing director of the De Beers group reportedly said the group had received expressions of interest but that it had no timeframe for the equity transfer.

A bill requiring firms to transfer 15% of their equity to black-led groups within five years is expected to be passed into law this year.