De Beers CEO seeks slimmer, more flexible company

Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:03am EDT
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By Tova Cohen and Ari Rabinovitch

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Diamond producer De Beers plans to cut costs and use machines more in place of labor as it strives to become leaner and more flexible in response to a tougher world economic environment, the company's chief executive said.

De Beers' owner Anglo American (AAL.L: Quote) has just changed its own management and is in the middle of a three-month review, the outcome of which will likely include steps to improve the performance of the world's biggest diamond producer by value.

Philippe Mellier and another senior executive, Varda Shine, told Reuters that De Beers was working on a wide range of ideas including a new automatic grading machine, which would "get rid of the human element" in grading diamonds.

It also hopes to introduce a screening machine by the end of the year that can detect synthetic stones among small, or melee, diamonds.

"We currently have a big project that is looking at integrating the mining companies processes and systems together with the midstream sorting operations all the way to sales," Shine said in the interview in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

"(We need) to make sure that we are able to become leaner and more flexible because the world is much more volatile today."

Both executives shied away from saying whether that would add up to consolidation of some of the company's businesses or worker layoffs, but they did note that De Beers has four separate units and said the whole process could involve some capital outlays.

Mellier also said he could not comment on the ongoing review by Anglo.   Continued...

Philippe Mellier, CEO of global diamond merchants De Beers, speaks to journalists during the Reuters Mining and Metals Summit in London March 27, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Helgren