De Beers in the Dumps

"Change is painful," De Beers executives sometimes note when quizzed about the agony of sightholders who are trying to comply with its new dictates. But De Beers is finding change thornier than it bargained for. Since last year, the company's attempts to reinvent both itself and the diamond industry have met a string of roadblocks. Last year's bid to gobble up Ashton Mining, co-owner of Argyle, fizzled when antitrust authorities unexpectedly stalled the move. Its privatization plan nearly met a similar fate but was rescued when the company's new owners offered more cash per share to skeptical stockholders. And now both its "Supplier of Choice" strategy and its retail alliance with LVMH may be radically altered or even canceled, the result of antitrust investigations by the European Commission. (De Beers stresses that it notified the EC about "Supplier of Choice" to get its verdict; still

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