By Brian Benza | November 6, 2023
GABORONE, Nov 6 (Reuters) – Botswana is conducting due diligence on HB Antwerp, as the world’s top diamond producing country by value seeks to finalise a deal to acquire a 24% shareholding in the Belgian gem trader, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said on Monday.
At the height of talks for a new sales contract with De Beers in March, Botswana announced a deal to become a shareholder in HB Antwerp and to supply the trader with 10% of the rough diamond output from the state-owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) for five years.
But the proposed deal was called into question in September when Lucara Diamond (LUC.TO) terminated its sales agreement with the Belgian gem trader, citing financial irregularities. HB and Lucara first entered into a diamond sales agreement in 2020, which was extended for 10 years in 2022.
“Due process of detailed legal and commercial due diligence is now ongoing to finalise the deal,” Masisi said on Monday during a state of the nation address.
After Lucara cut ties with HB Antwerp in September, Masisi told a media briefing the country would reassess the proposed deal to determine its next course of action.
Masisi has said the deal with HB Antwerp gives Botswana a foothold in the diamond downstream industry.
“HB was giving us an opportunity that we never got from our partner De Beers and that’s why we were willing to take the risk with a 10% allocation of ODC supply,” Masisi said in September.
Botswana and Anglo American (AAL.L) unit De Beers in June agreed a ten-year diamond sales agreement, which will see ODC’s share of Debswana output rise to 30% from 25% previously, rising to 40% in five years’ time and eventually 50% by the end of the contract.
Reporting by Brian Benza; Editing by Nelson Banya and Barbara Lewis