Gemstone trader HB Antwerp looks at African diamonds after the Botswana Pact

Gemstone trader HB Antwerp looks at African diamonds after the Botswana Pact



Says S. Africa, Namibia, Lesotho interesting markets


Sees sales rise to $1 billion in four years

By Felix Njini

May 19 (Reuters) –

HB Antwerp, a Belgian company and gemstone trader, is chasing more deals in Africa after signing a sales pact with Botswana, the world’s No. 1 diamond producer by value.

The company is looking for possible deals to process rough diamonds in countries such as Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo, says Rafael Papismedov, one of the co-founders of HB Antwerp.

It has held initial talks and plans to enter into serious negotiations with countries eager to bring their governance status in the sector to the same level as Botswana’s, Papismedov said.

He declined to reveal which governments HB Antwerp has held talks with, but said Namibia, South Africa and Lesotho are “very interesting” markets.

“There are initial talks with many governments, but at the moment our focus is on Botswana,” Papismedov said in an interview. “We hope to start serious talks in 2024.”

HB Antwerp’s deal with Lucara Diamond Corp, founded in 2020, allows it to purchase gemstones of 10 carat quality and above from the Canadian producer’s Karowe mine in Botswana at prices based on the estimated polished result of every diamond.

The Botswana government said it is buying a 24% stake in HB Antwerp and as part of the deal, the state-owned Okavango Diamond Company will supply the gem merchant and processing company with an undisclosed quantity of rough diamonds for five years.

Botswana is currently negotiating with De Beers Group to renew a 2011 diamond sales and marketing agreement, which expires in June.

More rough diamond supply could help HB Antwerp increase sales to more than $1 billion a year in three to four years, from less than $300 million last year, Papismedov said.

“We are a very ambitious company,” he says.

HB Antwerp has rapidly expanded its business and benefits from sales of larger stones, but is “still a relatively new company with a limited track record,” said diamond analyst Paul Zimnisky.

Producers from Africa, Canada and Australia are also struggling to compete with India in the rough to polished production segment, he said.

“Indians have the infrastructure, skills and labor costs that lead the world in diamond production, which is why more than 90% of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished in India,” he added.

Processing more diamonds in African countries could help increase government revenues, create jobs and increase transparency, Papismedov said.

“We believe that all diamonds from Botswana and all diamonds from the African nations should be locally transformed.”

(Reporting by Felix Njini; Editing by Jason Neely)