De Beers suffered a 14% sales decrease to $3.3 billion in the first half of 2012, on the back of a slowdown in demand for rough diamonds. Earnings at $626 million were 47% down from $1.2 billion over the same period in 2011.
Rough diamond sales by the Diamond Trading Company (DTC), including those through joint ventures, totaled $3.1 billion during this period, an 11.4% decline from the $3.5 billion generated in the first half of 2011.
Diamond production in the period was scaled back 13.6% to 13.4 million carats.
De Beers reported that despite challenging trading conditions, DTC price levels remained relatively stable. The company also noted a significant reduction in third-party debt to $980 million from $1.26 billion in December 2011.
However, free cash flow decreased 30% to $326 million from $469 million in the first half of 2011.
The diamond company reported that the lower rough diamond sales figures were due to a combination of reduced demand and changing product requirements from Sightholders.
De Beers noted that while overall consumer demand for polished diamonds remained relatively healthy, Sightholder demand was impacted by increased stock in cutting centers, tightening liquidity and “challenging conditions” in India.
Early indications are, however, that the U.S. consumer market continued to perform well and the Chinese market still showed growth, though at a lower pace.
“In light of prevailing rough diamond market trends, and in keeping with De Beers’ stated production strategy from Q4 2011, operations continued to focus on maintenance and waste stripping backlogs," the diamond miner stated.
"This strategy has enabled De Beers to meet Sightholder demand for rough diamonds while gradually positioning the mines for future increases in demand.”