By Brecken Branstrator
Gemfields recovered the 5,655-carat “Inkalamu” emerald from its Kagem mine in October and sold it a month later for an undisclosed amount to Dia-Color.
London—Gemfields recorded a net loss in 2018, hurt in part by a new tax levied in Zambia and a costly court case.

In its full year ended Dec. 31, which was first full fiscal year for the company since the July 2017 takeover of its biggest investor, Pallinghurst, Gemfields reported revenue of $206.1 million, a 252 percent increase over 2017. This was the first time it crossed the $200-million mark, the colored gemstone miner noted.

EBITDA also increased, from $30.5 million to $58.9 million.

Even with revenue hitting a new high, the company recorded a $60.4 million loss for the fiscal year, hurt by the fair-value loss on the Sedibelo platinum mines, in which Gemfields holds a 6.5 percent stake, a $22.6 million impairment charge applied to Kagem because of newly implemented tax changes in Zambia and a costly court case.

Starting Jan. 1, the Zambian government introduced a 15 percent export duty on gemstones and metals to help reduce the country’s debt. When combined with the existing 6 percent mineral royalty already levied on gemstones, it increases Gemfields’ total tax on revenue at Kagem to 21 percent.

Also last fiscal year, a group of Mozambicans filed a lawsuit against the London-based colored gemstone miner over alleged human rights abuses at the company’s Montepuez ruby mine. In January, Gemfields agreed to pay $7.6 million on a no-admission-of-liability basis to settle the lawsuit.

Gemfields’ share price reflected the challenges it faced at its operations throughout the year, falling 40 percent by the end of the year.
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In its annual results release, Chairman Brian Gilbertson said the company’s biggest challenge in the coming months will lie in Zambia. In addition to the higher taxes, he noted that the mineral royalty is no longer tax-deductible for corporations.

Because of the new taxes enacted, Gemfields has recognized an impairment loss of $22.6 million in respect to Kagem, its emerald mine there that faces other market headwinds as well.

Production in the “premium” category at Kagem reached 224,000 carats, representing a 400 percent increase in the category’s production in the 12-month period to June 2017 (Gemfields included pre-acquisition figures for the full-year t June 30, 2017, where possible to allow for better comparability).

Kagem also set new records for ore production and total carats produced. However, as production soared, the emerald market struggled.

Most of Gemfields’ emerald dcustomers operate in India and, as such, were grappling with deflating property prices in Jaipur, lack of liquidity and heightened regulatory scrutiny in India following the Nirav Modi scandal.

As a result, the four emerald auctions during the year generated revenues of $60.3 million, which Gemfields called “tolerable” given the financial and regulatory oversight challenges facing Indian customers.

Higher-quality emerald auctions held during the year yielded a slight increase in average per-carat price, achieving $65.55 compared with $63.63 per carat in the 12-month period ended June 2017.

The per-carat average for commercial-quality emeralds was flat, achieving $3.54 per carat on average in 2018 compared with $3.53 per carat in the year up to June 2017.

Gemfields also faces challenges in Ethiopia, where it was mining emeralds.

In July 2018, a mob overran its mining operations and a month later looted the site. Its 110-person team there has been reduced to a handful, the company said, as it works to find a way to restart bulk sampling.
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Meanwhile, Gemfields’ operations in Mozambique, where it mines ruby and corundum, generated revenues of $127.1 million from the two Montepuez auctions of mixed-quality rubies held during the year, with the June auction seeing record results of $71.8 million.

In 2018, the mining area produced a total of 2.9 million carats of ruby and corundum.

Faberge, meanwhile, reported record revenues of $13.4 million in 2018 and saw triple-digit growth in online sales.

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