Stephen Lussier Talks to JCK!

At last the promised De Beers interview …Stephen Lussier, De Beers’ executive director of external and corporate affairs, very graciously sat down with me today at the Amsterdam President’s meeting:

– Lussier said that De Beers will keep advertising “beacon” products in the United States, despite talk it was abandoning generic advertising: “All our analysis says that the main driver of diamond growth in America has been the De Beers-originated beacons [like three-stone rings and ‘Journey.’]… If you strip those out, the market is rather flat. We are interested in more propreitary things but we don’t want to risk the American market.” He said the company “wants to do more with the Forevermark” but says the Forevermark is a “long way off” from coming into the United States.

-  He also reiterated, as De Beers executives have in the past, that it has no plans for a more formal U.S. presence, even when its legal problems are finally wrapped up: “We did feel the need to clear those legal hurdles .. It’s uncomfortable to have these problems in a market that consumes half your product. It is just not good business to have that in your risk portfolio.” But he said: “I don’t forsee at least in the near-term any business presence. We work well in America as it is. It’s expensive to do it just for fun.”

– While he “doesn’t think the industry has a good reputation” among consumers, he thinks it could, noting: “I think the ‘Blood Diamond’ movie will be a positive experience for us in the long-term,” because it “gets us focussed more on these issues than before.” Regarding beneficiation among producer countries, he said “if we can help create a cutting industry, it will be an extraordinary thing for Africa. It will be one of the few minerals that has created added value and employment. It will set diamonds apart … It won’t be easy, but we, along with the government, are determined to do it.”

– He said that the rebranding of De Beers’ retail chain from “De Beers LV” to “De Beers Diamond Jewellers” was not an indication of a lack of interest among partner LVMH. Asked whether De Beers the miner would ever sell direct to the chain, he said, “Not as long as we have 40% market share.”

– He said he had no knowledge of reported tensions among De Beers’ two main owners (the Oppenheimer family and Anglo-American): “We don’t feel any tension internally, although we read articles about it. The shareholders seem pretty happy holding what they have in De Beers.”

Finally, Lussier  basically declined comment on the recent Idex article on Diamdel — as I should note, DTC managing director Varda Shine basically also did when asked about it at a forum later in the day, although she labelled it “gossip.” Shine, who seemed far more comfortable than when she appeared at the World Diamond Congress last year, also said in response to a question she had “honestly no idea” how many sightholders there will be in the future.

And that’s it. More in an upcoming JCK ….

JCK News Director