Is De Beers Doing an About-Face?

Some attendees at De Beers’ first sight in Botswana say they heard a very different—and welcome—tone in conversations with De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier.

For a long time, Mellier had told clients complaining about his company’s continued rough price increases—largely seen as a sop to corporate parent Anglo American—that if they don’t want to be sightholders, there were plenty of other companies waiting in line to take their place. And, in fact, the company’s “dynamic” application process—where companies that consistently win the e-auctions at Diamdel get a chance to be sightholders—is generally seen as De Beers developing understudies for existing clients.

But at the most recent allocation, Mellier was more conciliatory, some feel, telling clients that he understands that they need to make money and that De Beers will try to keep their needs more in mind. And the allocation was better received than some of those in the past, leading to an overall better mood among clients.

As for the Botswana locale, many were pleasantly surprised about how smoothly it all ran and how nice the accommodations were, but the extended travel time—it’s farther than London from just about every cutting center—still rankles many.

As far as the other big issue at De Beers right now—the depature of some longtime important executives—we may see some of the company’s leading figures resurface at some point.

Departing senior vice president Varda Shine has emailed sightholders that she is looking for opportunities “outside the diamond industry (in a non-executive capacity)” and may return to the business in a few years. And another exiting exec, former director of sales Mahiar Borhanjoo, tells JCK he “hopes to be back in the larger industry in some form in the future.”

 

JCK News Director