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Ian Harebottle, CEO, Gemfields
By: Diamond World News Service
Oct 20 2014 7:08AM
Reference: 10737  

Since Ian Harebottletook over the CEO postion of Gemfields in 2009, emerald trade has breathed a fresh life. Now he aspires to venture in thecomplete coloured stone arena starting with what he calls ‘traffic light’ strategy.With Mozambican rubies, Zambian emeralds and Sri Lankan sapphires, the red, green, blue band acquisition is Gemfields’ objective. Kunjal Karaniya, spoke to him about the current emerald market, ruby auctions, foray in Sri Lanka and his future plans.

Q1) How is the current market scenario for emeralds?
A1) The current market scenario for emeralds is excellent. It continuously amazes me. I started with Gemfields in the year 2009, which was also the period of global economic downfall, but I see every challenge as an opportunity and hence I converted it as a ladder to position emerald and other gemstones on the top.

The market is getting better and better with every passing year and we used the opportunities at the right time, marketed it well and thus could garner success. We have a strong demand from India, China, U.S., Asia and Europe. The demand is across the board when it comes to age, but younger generation loves it as they are looking for something different and unique. Even in Hollywood, the celebrities have started moving from diamonds to emeralds.

Q2) Please share some details on the output of emeralds.
A2) Gemfields has enjoyed a stellar year which has seen a threefold increase in revenue to US$ 160 million and a year-on-year EBITDA increase of US$ 58 million. In addition to record revenues from our emerald business, the year saw Gemfields hold its inaugural ruby auction of Mozambican rubies, generating sales of US$ 33.5 million from 1.82 million carats sold. Both our auction system and the rubies themselves received widespread acclaim from numerous industry stakeholders, underlining the significance to Gemfields of this new business.

Output of Zambian emeralds and beryl should rise to between 25m and 30m carats this year, compared to 20m carat in the year to the end of June. Ruby output should rise from 6.5m ct to 8m.

The consistent price increases achieved in our emerald business demonstrate our ongoing commitment to supporting the competitiveness of Zambian emeralds in the international market and affirm that our global marketing strategies, including our Fabergé business, are successfully driving demand for coloured gemstones. Our shares rose 5.1 per cent to 51.5p.

Q3) How was the demand for emeralds last year?
A3) The demand for emeralds is phenomenal, emerald tops in the colour palate. The demand from India is great as it is a country where both men and women love accessories. Not to miss the demand is also strong from China, Arabian countries and Europe. The demand is rising as people now-a-days love individuality, something different and this is exactly what emerald symbolises, each emerald is unique and different.

Q4) Please comment on the price factor for emeralds during last two years.
A4) As there is increase in global demand, the price for emerald increases. Also there are a lot of marketing activities for awarenessbeing done, hence the cost adds. The value and price for emeralds have almost doubled today as they are more scarce and rare.

Q5) Any new major corporate happenings / marketing strategies?
A5) The Company’s strategy remains that of becoming the global ‘Coloured Gemstone Champion’ and we are very pleased with our recently announced opportunity to add Sri Lankan sapphires to our portfolio of premium coloured gemstones.

We recently entered into what we consider to be the third of the ‘big three’ coloured gemstones. With revenue-producing emerald and ruby operations in Zambia and Mozambique already in the Gemfields portfolio, the proposed development of sapphire operations in Sri Lanka will realise our stated red, blue and green ‘traffic light’ of coloured gemstones strategy.

Sri Lanka is already known as a key source of sapphires of all colours, and of the highly sought-after padparadscha sapphire. The favourable business climate and attractive incentives available via the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka provide a sound platform for our investment and evaluation of growth opportunities.

We are excited about the possibility of being able to offer a reliable supply of well-graded sapphires to customers attending our auctions, and to ensuring that all gemstone stakeholders in Sri Lanka - including its government and general population - benefit from the value addition and transparency that the Gemfields approach has already delivered in Zambia and Mozambique.

Q6) What do you look for in your employees?
A6) Passion is a huge one, skills can be educated. I find that not many people come into my organisation with ideal skills. It is about enthusiasm in applying your skills. I look for 3 A’s: Aptitude, Attitude and Ability. I do not want them to slog. I also give them time to spend with family, friends, hobbies so that they come back to office refreshed. Also, I am not a typical boss for them as I believe in open interaction and not bossing around.

My major job is placing the correct person in the apt role. The dare is not finding best people but finding best people and letting them find out how wonderful they are. I have a core team that helps me be in a really strong position.

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