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Trau Bros. acquiring Lazare Kaplan Botswana

By Michelle Graff

January 17, 2014

Gaborone, Botswana--Belgian diamond company the Trau Bros. NV is taking 100 percent control of New York diamond company Lazare Kaplan’s operations in Botswana.

Mmegi Online reported and sources confirmed that the Trau Bros., which already has a 49 percent stake in Lazare Kaplan Botswana, plans to acquire the remaining 51 percent. The deal is pending regulatory approval.

Trau Bros. declined further comment on the transaction, except to say that the polished diamonds produced in Botswana will be used to serve its clients worldwide. 

Lazare Kaplan said, “In this time of rapid change in the world and in our industry, LKI management constantly reviews the deployment of its resources.” 

Founded in 1890, Trau Bros. has been a sightholder with De Beers for 65 years and is one of the manufacturers authorized to cut De Beers’ branded diamond, the Forevermark. The company also is a contract client with Russian diamond mining company Alrosa. 

Trau Bros. is known for its expertise in fancy shapes and has offices in Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and Dubai. Its brands include Jade Trau, the line produced in New York City by designer Jade Lustig, granddaughter of Solomon Trau.

Lazare Kaplan International Inc. was founded in 1903 and is based in New York. The company was a pioneer of the ideal cut and was the first to inscribe diamonds. Its branded diamond is called the Lazare Diamond and it also sells high-pressure, high-temperature treated (HPHT) diamonds under the Bellataire brand name.

In recent years, the company has been involved in a number of high-profile lawsuits, including the ongoing $500 million legal battle with its former lender, the Antwerp Diamond Bank N.V. 

In an 8-K filed Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Lazare Kaplan noted that it recently notched a legal victory in one of these suits. 

On Sept. 13, the company and the Gemological Institute of America settled the patent infringement lawsuit originally filed by Lazare Kaplan in 2006 against the GIA and PhotoScribe over the diamond company’s inscription technology. 

According to the filing, the GIA agreed to pay Lazare Kaplan $15.5 million while the diamond company granted GIA a license to use certain patents. The GIA will pay Lazare Kaplan a per-inscription royalty until July 31, 2016. 

Lazare Kaplan has not filed regular financial reports since 2009 because of “material uncertainties” created by its ongoing lawsuits but stated in the 8-K filed Wednesday that it expects net sales and other revenue (including the lawsuit settlement) for the second quarter 2014 ended Nov. 30 to almost double year-over-year, from $15.6 million to $29.0 million.

Year-to-date, sales and other revenue are expected to total $42.5 million, up from $34.9 million last year.