HB Antwerp, a Belgian gem processing firm and trader, is hunting for more deals in Africa after securing a sales pact with Botswana, the world’s No. 1 diamond producer by value.
The firm is looking for potential deals to process rough diamonds in countries including Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Rafael Papismedov, one of HB Antwerp’s co-founders.
It has held initial talks and plans to enter into serious negotiations with countries that are keen to raise their industry governance status to the same level as Botswana’s, Papismedov said.
He declined to disclose which governments HB Antwerp has held talks with but said Namibia, South Africa and Lesotho are “very interesting” markets.
“There is initial talks with a lot of governments but currently our focus right now is Botswana,” Papismedov said in an interview. “We hope to start engaging in serious discussions in 2024.”
Founded in 2020, HB Antwerp’s deal with Lucara Diamond Corp, allows it to buy gems of 10 carat quality and above from the Canadian producer’s Karowe Mine in Botswana at prices based on the estimated polished outcome of each diamond.
The Botswana government said it is buying a 24% stake in HB Antwerp and as part of the deal state-owned Okavango Diamond Company will supply the gem trader and processing firm with an undisclosed quantity of rough diamonds for five years.
Botswana is currently locked in negotiations with De Beers Group to renew a 2011 diamonds sales and marketing agreement which expires in June.
More supplies of rough diamonds could help HB Antwerp boost sales to over $1 billion per annum in three to four years from under $300 million last year, Papismedov said.
“We are a very ambitious company,” he said.
HB Antwerp has rapidly expanded its operations and capitalises on selling bigger stones but is “still a relatively new company with a limited track record”, diamond analyst Paul Zimnisky said.
Producers from Africa, Canada and Australia also face difficulties competing in the rough-to-polished manufacturing segment against India, he said.
“The Indians have the infrastructure, skill sets and labour costs that are world-leading in terms of diamond manufacturing, this is why over 90% of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished in India,” he added.Processing more diamonds in African countries could help shore up government revenues, create jobs and bolster transparency, Papismedov said.
“We believe that all the diamonds of Botswana and all the diamonds of the African nations should be transformed locally.”
(By Felix Njini; Editing by Jason Neely)