Anglo to Buy Oppenheimers’ De Beers Stake for $5.1 Billion

By Jana Marais and Thomas Biesheuvel

Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) — Anglo American Plc agreed to buy the Oppenheimer family’s 40 percent stake in De Beers for $5.1 billion in cash, ending the dynasty’s 80-year ownership in the world’s largest diamond miner.

The transaction will increase Anglo’s holding in De Beers to as much as 85 percent, the London-based company said today in a statement. The deal will add to underlying earnings in the first year of acquisition, Anglo said.

“De Beers has the largest resources and reserves in the world today,” Cynthia Carroll, chief executive officer of Anglo, said in an interview with Francine Lacqua on Bloomberg Television’s “Countdown.” “The market is very, very strong. Demand will outstrip supply.”

Diamond miners are struggling to keep pace with growing consumption in emerging economies as older mines are exhausted and producers lack new discoveries. Supplies of rough diamonds, which are turned into polished gems, are forecast to remain flat in the next five years and will fail to match demand driven by China and India, according to RBC Capital Markets.

“We’re seeing in the first half of this year a tremendous increase in demand coming out of emerging countries as well as developed countries,” Carroll said. “In 2005, India and China represented about 8 percent of demand. By 2015, India, China and the Gulf will represent about close to 40 percent.”

Biggest Deal

The acquisition is Anglo’s biggest since its purchase of the Minas Rio iron-ore project in Brazil for about $5.5 billion in 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Anglo slipped 0.8 percent to 2,338.5 pence by the close in London. The stock earlier rose as much as 4.1 percent.

The company will fund the deal with its existing cash and a $3.5 billion credit line that’s undrawn, Finance Director Rene Medori said on a conference call. Anglo signed the five-year revolving credit in 2010, agreeing to pay interest ranging from 60 to 120 basis points above the London interbank offered rate, according to Bloomberg data. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point. Anglo has $2.2 billion of cash at hand, Medori said.

A price of $5.1 billion “is probably a bit on the cheap side, but for the Oppenheimers there was only one buyer,” said Des Kilalea, a London-based analyst at RBC, who said it was about 25 percent lower than RBC’s valuation. “It was a clumsy structure that this cleans up.”

‘Looks a Good Deal’

The acquisition “looks like a very good deal” for Anglo, Liberum Capital Markets said in a note to investors. Liberum estimates that Anglo is paying 9.1 times price-to-projected 2012 earnings. That compares with the 9.8 times and 8.5 times valuations it places on Petra Diamonds Ltd. and Gem Diamonds Ltd. respectively.

“They came to us with an offer,” De Beers Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer said in a phone interview. “We thought it was a fair offer on the table, and we took time to think carefully about it. The family decided unanimously to accept their offer.”

Founded by English-born businessman and politician Cecil John Rhodes more than 120 years ago, De Beers is 40 percent owned by the Oppenheimers, 45 percent by Anglo and 15 percent by the Botswana government.

Botswana has pre-emptive rights over the Oppenheimer shares held by CHL Group and has an option to increase its interest to 25 percent, Anglo said in the statement. Botswana has until the deal is concluded to decide, giving the government nine to 12 months, Oppenheimer said.

Botswana Considers Options

Botswana will explore the option in the “next coming months” and the country doesn’t anticipate the deal will “have any significant impact on its recently signed sales agreement with De Beers,” the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources said today in Gaborone, the capital.

De Beers, which mines diamonds by itself and in joint ventures in South Africa, Canada, Botswana and Namibia, reported a 33 percent jump in first-half sales to a record as demand in India and China drove up prices.

“The diamond operations have recently returned to profit with very nice profit margins,” Clinton Duncan, an analyst at Avior Research, said in a phone interview in Johannesburg. “The deal is not a bad idea. Anglo could now divest the operations to finally realize the value of De Beers. It could list De Beers in its own right.”

Anglo is focusing on the “next stage of development” at De Beers, Carroll said in the interview. “This is a unique opportunity in consolidating the control of the world’s largest diamond company.” There is no intention now to hold an initial public offering, Carroll said on a conference call later.

‘Ghastly Little Club’

De Beers sells its diamonds at 10 events each year known as “sights” for customers from Belgium, Israel and other countries known for diamond-cutting.

“I hope it will be liberating,” said Charles Wyndham, a former De Beers sales director and founder of WWW International Diamond Consultants Ltd. “Hopefully they will move away from the old business model, treat diamonds as the commodity they are, and get down to being a proper business rather than a ghastly little club.”

Started in Kimberley, where diamond diggings established South Africa’s mining industry, De Beers was named after a nearby farm. Ernest Oppenheimer, who founded Anglo in 1917, took control in the 1920s. His son and grandson, Harry and Nicky, built De Beers into a business that now supplies about a third of the world’s rough diamonds.

The Oppenheimers sold about 64 million pounds ($102 million) of Anglo shares last December, leaving their stake in the company at about 1.9 percent. In 2006, they sold 1.13 percent of Anglo to billionaire Larry Yung’s China Vision Resources for about $803 million.

Keeping Anglo Stake

The family has “no intention at this stage” of further reducing its holding, James Teeger, managing director of E. Oppenheimer & Son Group, said today by phone from Johannesburg.

Anglo said in February that Nicky Oppenheimer would leave the company, marking the first time a member of the family hasn’t sat on the board since the company was founded.

“Anglo American is the natural home for our stake as they have been major shareholders in De Beers since 1926 and have a deep knowledge of the diamond business,” Oppenheimer said in today’s statement.

The deal is subject to regulatory and government approvals and is expected to close in the second half of 2012. No management changes will be made before completion and Philippe Mellier will remain as CEO of De Beers, Anglo said.

Nomura International Plc and UBS AG are advising Anglo American.


–With assistance from Patricia Kuo and Firat Kayakiran in London, Renee Bonorchis in Johannesburg and Vernon Wessels in Johannesburg. Editors: John Viljoen, Alex Devine

To contact the reporters on this story: Jana Marais in Johannesburg at; Thomas Biesheuvel in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *