De Beers Plans Overhaul of Supply Policy

De Beers plans to abandon its practice of using sightholders’ purchase history as the main factor in determining how it allocates rough supply, sources have told Rapaport News.

The move, which would go into effect from 2021, would see the miner shift to more subjective criteria for deciding the value of goods each client receives.

The current system, known as “demonstrated demand,” requires sightholders to buy the rough that De Beers has allotted them or risk losing access to De Beers’ diamonds in future. The method has faced criticism for encouraging dealers and manufacturers to take on unprofitable inventory.

But with the current sightholder agreement expiring at the end of this year, De Beers has told clients demonstrated demand will not be the main driver of allocations in the new contract period, the sources said. Discussions about the matter continued at this week’s January sight in Botswana.

The proposals include studying data about clients’ business activities, as well as qualitative factors, to help determine whether companies should be on the client list, a sightholder explained on condition of anonymity. De Beers is also considering reducing the number of sightholders, according to a Bloomberg report last week that Rapaport News could not corroborate.

“We will be communicating directly with customers in the coming months about the new sightholder contract period, which will focus on maximizing the considerable opportunities ahead in the diamond sector,” a De Beers spokesperson said. The company would not elaborate on the details.

The midstream’s accumulation of excess inventory contributed to a severe slowdown in the diamond market in 2019, with De Beers’ full-year sales falling 25% to $4.04 billion. Last July, Dutch bank ABN Amro wrote to its clients urging them to buy rough only when it’s profitable, and attacked the practice of making purchases purely to maintain supply allocations.

Sightholders are expecting this week’s De Beers sale — the first of the year — to be relatively large as the trade replenishes its stocks following a solid holiday season. De Beers raised prices in certain categories, sources said.