By Michelle Graff
Alrosa’s Udachny open-pit mine in the Yakutia region of Siberia. The miner plans to mine 34 million carats of diamonds in 2020, down from 39 million carats last year. (Photo courtesy of Alrosa)
Moscow—Alrosa’s diamond sales declined in February amid the continuing spread of COVID-19, and the miner is cutting its supply forecast for 2020.

The Moscow-based diamond miner reported Wednesday that sales of rough and polished diamonds totaled $346.4 million, essentially unchanged from $345.6 million a year ago but down 14 percent from January, a month in which it saw a double-digit increase in sales as cutters restocked. 

“In February, the uncertainty with the spread of COVID-19 started to weigh negatively on the demand and customers’ activity, the factor that will be impacting demand in the coming months,” said Evgeny Agureev, Alrosa’s deputy CEO. “However, we continue to pursue ‘price-over-volume’ strategy to keep prices stable rather than increasing sales volumes.”

In an analyst briefing held Tuesday in conjunction with the release of its full-year 2019 results, Alrosa said COVID-19 poses a setback to an industry that’s just emerging from a difficult year.

“The diamond industry came out of 2018/2019 crisis year healthier, with balanced stocks, disciplined supply management across the chain, and a more financially sustainable mid-stream segment,” the company remarked.

“However, in the short-term certain headwinds … such as the COVID-19 outbreak could decelerate demand recovery, which started to materialize in the second half of 2019.”

Alrosa finished 2019 with a 21 percent drop in revenue to 238 billion rubles ($3.3 billion) and net profit falling 31 percent to 63 billion rubles ($885.6 million).

The diamond miner saw rough diamond sales sink 26 percent on the year as it allowed clients to buy less in the face of faltering demand, excess supply in the pipeline and manufacturers’ continuing difficulties in securing financing.

Miners like De Beers and Alrosa are also grappling with the increasing amount of diamond jewelry sold online, as e-commerce sites do not have to hold the same level of inventory as brick-and-mortar stores with showcases to fill.

The diamond market picked up in August as consumer activity recovered in key sales markets in the second half of the year, particularly in the United States, Chief Financial Officer Alexey Philippovskiy said.

Alrosa finished the year with fourth quarter revenues up 5 percent year-over-year.

The company said in its analyst briefing that its mid- to long-term outlook for the diamond industry remains optimistic, due to a growing middle class in countries like China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia, and shrinking supply.

In November, Alrosa announced it was cutting its production forecast for 2020 due to higher-than-average inventory at the end of 2019.

It expects to mine 34 million carats, down from 39 million carats last year and the 38 million carats it originally forecast.

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