March 30th, 2008
By Charles Wyndham.
Like any normal person I have broken yet another of my self imposed rules, it could even have happened in Lent.
In my defence I have to say that I am away from England at the moment and I was seduced into trying to induce for want of a better expression, a ‘gemutlich’ mood of wistful repose by watching the BBC news.
It, my mood not the news, did not last long.
There, there were images of some dreary woman carefully placing some dreary skeleton bones in a plastic bag….boring in the extreme.
The story, as if I cared, was that this skeleton was the oldest found under London and was dated at around 3,000 years old, you might ask why bother to disturb the poor chap and more to the point why bother to tell me.
That at least reassured me that it had not been dug up at the DTC over the last couple of months.
The opportunity for that will be coming soon according to some who were at last week’s Sight.
The DTC had stopped feeling like a mausoleum and has actually become one.
It is the juxtaposition between the celebrations in Gaborone at the opening of the new building and the tangible air of decayed power, of lost opportunities, dashed hopes and uncertainty within the corridors of 17 Charterhouse Street, that has finally, at least to those to whom I spoke, brought home the demise of the DTC.
The tittle tattle at the Sight appears to have revolved around speculation that Varda may be leaving the Mausoleum sooner than later.
Firstly, she probably wants to and secondly who cares, what difference is it going to make to anyone but her?
Ownership of DTC / De Beers has effectively moved from the Oppenheimer dynasty to African Presidents.
Turbulence is going to increase.
What DTC did bring, decreasingly so through its vale of incompetence, was some form or pattern for doing business, a comforting certainty.
That is gone, so one can ask are there any certainties left, that is apart from more uncertainty?
Lets have a try.
Firstly, not enough rough particularly in better colours throughout the sizes.
The latest missive from the DTC to its clients about the new contract ITOs is illuminating, if you will excuse the pun, especially when read in the context of the interview that Nicky recently gave to the Times.
The power shortages in South Africa are going to have an impact. How much no one knows but it is becoming more likely that the impact is going to be greater rather than less.
I may return to this DTC missive in some other piece, as it is quite a stunning piece of obfuscation.
Moving on however, this shortage in rough is going to be offset to some extent by inflows of polished as the pain in America forces consolidation or simple bankruptcy on more and more firms.
As these rough shortages continue to bite over time, unless there are some mega new mines, it is becoming clear that the business is simply not big enough to sustain the growth of all the players let alone new players.
Therefore, secondly, I think that there will be several large companies that move increasingly away from diamonds, the pond is simply not big enough.
This move has been effectively encouraged by the DTC inane policies.
Thirdly, the oft repeated mantra that there is simply too much manufacturing capacity has got to bite.
Fourthly, people still buy diamonds and in fact I get the feeling that the power of our product is increasing not waning.
Fifthly, that there will be some tremendous opportunities but that these will not fit past models which revolved around the comfort zones of having a DTC providing some certainty.
Sixth, the industry has got to become more transparent, much more transparent, as diamonds become like any other commodity and banks demand more openness as they lose the comfort of lending within a DTC framework.
So set against the troubled economic background there is a huge increase in uncertainty but at the same time one certainty that remains in our industry is that there remains great opportunity, the question is for whom.
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