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2011 Antwerp Diamond Conference touches upon rough supply and industry financing
The Conference looked at perspectives for the next decade
By: Diamond World News Service
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May 25 2011 1:36PM
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Reference: 6024  

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The 2011 Antwerp Diamond Conference, which began on 23 May 2011, brought forth key insights and perspectives to issues of diamond industry financing and rough diamond supply, in sync with its theme – ‘Diamonds 2020: A Window to the future’. The conference is being held at the Wagnaatie in the Port of Antwerp, with an attendance of about 400 members of the international industry and the media.

AWDC CEO Ari Epstein delivered a welcoming speech and the conference was opened by Patrick Janssens, the mayor of Antwerp.

The first session of the conference focussed on diamond industry financing, and more specifically the impact of changes brought about by the recent global financial crisis and the subsequent efforts by governments to more carefully regulate banking, in particular Basel III, which is the new global regulatory standard on bank capital adequacy and liquidity agreed by the members of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Pierre De Bosscher, CEO of Antwerp Diamond Bank, said in future he expected there would be adequate financing but at a higher cost. Basel III, he stated, was likely to lead to further corporatisation and sophistication in the diamond industry, with more transparency and higher capitalisation. Victor Van Der Kwast, CEO of the International Jewellery Group of ABN Amro Bank noted new developments post economic crisis as being - higher capital requirements with increased government involvement and tighter controls, need for more transparency, scrutiny of company documentation was higher and banks are less flexible now. Christof Govaerts, head of the Investment Committee at the Crelan Econofuture Fund, pointed out that post economic crisis systemic risk was still a danger for the global economy, and that leverage, which caused widespread damage following the crisis, had returned.

In a panel discussion led by conference moderator Anish Aggarwal, P.N. Prasad, CEO of the State Bank of India in Antwerp spoke on India’s strong growth in diamond demand, and De Bosscher said that the Indian diamond industry had received a great deal of support from the government. Van Der Kwast said that 55 Indian banks were providing credit to the domestic industry.

The session on rough diamond supply opened with an address by Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Dr. Ponatshego H.K. Kedikilwe, who stated that the current guiding principle for his government was to maximise the economic benefits from its diamond resources through value-adding activities, the creation of employment opportunities and the stimulation of private sector investment. Leonid Tolpezhinikov, the director of the Analytical Centre at Alrosa said Alrosa was preparing for a public launch of its stock, adding to greater transparency and accountability for its shareholders. Jean-Marc Lieberherr, the general manager of Rio Tinto Diamonds addressed the interconnection between diamond supply and diamond demand, especially when a mining company intends to invest in a new mine, and stressed on the need for a pan-industry body to drive long-term generic demand for diamond products.

Martin Leake, general manager of Diamonds Marketing, at BHP Billiton Diamonds delivered a presentation entitled - “Rough of Choice,” outlining Rio Tinto’s bidding mechanism of selling rough diamonds, which it feels proves to secure the best market price of the day, along with transparency and competitiveness. Des Kilalea, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, noted that the volume of rough diamond supply will be flat at best over the course of coming decade, as the number of companies that were involved in it or could participate in mining was small. He noted that majority of mining was centered from five countries, and majority production from four companies. In addition, diamond mining was a long-term business, and expensive.

Tim Dabson, the executive director of Benefication at the Diamond Trading Company, spoke about the growing role of the African DTCs, and their potential impact on diamond distribution and the growth of the diamond industry in Africa. The move would enable the countries involved to bring real value to their nations. A panel discussion rounded up views - Martin Leake said BHP Billiton's aim was simply to enable its customers to make money by using their expert specialist knowledge, Meanwhile, Dabson said that De Beers was developing its online auction method which complemented its sightholder system, Kilalea said that smaller mining firms were using the tender method finding it simpler and delivering a good price for their diamonds. Jean-Marc Lieberherr, on a question of volatility, said that Rio Tinto Diamonds it made it difficult for customers to plan steady production.

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