Apr 01, 2019

Firestone on Track to Meet 2019 Guidance; Sales Hit by Price Slump for Smaller, Lower-Value Goods

Firestone Diamonds plc announced its unaudited interim results for the six months ended 31 December 2018 (H1 2019) reporting that while production at its Liqhobong mine remained on track as per the earlier released guidance for FY 2019, sales were impacted by the slump in prices for smaller, lower-value goods.

The Company said that during the six-month period, 1.9 million tonnes of ore was treated (H1 2018: 1.9 mt), within full year guidance of between 3.6 mt and 3.8 mt. It added that the average grade of 24.6 carats per hundred tonnes in the period was higher (H1 2018: 19.9 cpht), mainly due to treating more of the higher grade ore blocks in the southern part of the open pit.

Additionally, 1.9 mt of waste was stripped, with a plan in place to increase waste tonnes mined to meet full year guidance of between 4.3 mt and 4.8 mt.

The amount of carats recovered at 465,680 carats (H1 2018: 379,716 carats) was also within full year guidance range of between 820,000 and 870,000 carats, Firestone said. It included the recovery of the largest diamond to date, a 326 carat light yellow makeable stone.

However, the average value per carat of US$ 71 (H1 2018: US$ 74) realised in the period dropped, impacted by a slump prices for smaller, lower value diamonds.

Helped by a favourable exchange rate, cash operating cost per tonne treated (including waste) was US$ 10.96 (H1 2018: US$ 11.97), well below full year guidance of US$ 15-16 per tonne treated.

The Company earned revenue of US$ 27.4 million from three sales (H1 2018: US$ 26.0 million from four sales) and reported an EBITDA of US$ 5.9 million (H1 2018: US$ 7.3 million), resulting in the loss for the period being US$ 6.6 million (H1 2018: US$ 7.8 million).

It also reported that the most recent sale, held on March 22, realised an average value of US$ 90 per carat, resulting in a higher average value realised of US$ 80 for the third quarter of the financial year, and US$ 74 per carat for the first nine months of the financial year.

A record price was also realised for a single stone sold from Liqhobong, a 70 carat diamond recovered in January.

Paul Bosma, Chief Executive Officer of Firestone, commented: "The second half of 2018 saw a global price slump in the smaller, lower value goods which negatively impacted our average dollar per carat achieved. Since then, prices have stabilised at these lower levels and we are looking forward to some improvement once inventory levels in the midstream of the diamond market normalise. Production is on track to meet guidance and we once again did well to manage costs, which are well below full year guidance. Pleasingly, we sold our most valuable stone to date at the recent sale, a 70 carat makeable recovered in January, and aided by a modest price increase in the smaller fraction we realised our highest average sale price since declaring commercial production in mid-2017 of US$ 90/ct."