Brussels--Yet another bank seems set to exit the jewelry industry, as KBC said Friday that the sale of the Antwerp Diamond Bank to Yinren Group has fallen through and it will, according to its agreement with the European Commission, wind down the bank’s activities. 

KBC said no new loans will be given by Antwerp Diamond Bank (ADB), a leading financer for the diamond trade, and no new business will be developed as it seeks to absorb ADB’s outstanding loans into KBC Bank NV and, eventually, run down the bank’s loan portfolio and activities. The run-down is subject to approval by the competent authorities. 

According to KBC, it is not doing a “collective dismissal” of ADB staff in Belgium but instead will tap a group of ADB staff to handle the wind-down of the bank while deploying other ADB employees elsewhere in the KBC Group. The bank’s offices in Hong Kong, Mumbai, Singapore and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, will be closed by small teams there, and those employees eventually will be laid off. The bank’s office in New York closed earlier this year.

ADB will contact its clients personally with more details on the wind-down in the months ahead, KBC said. 

Brussels-based KBC announced in December that it had reached an agreement with Shanghai-based Yinren Group to buy Antwerp Diamond Bank but said Friday that Yinren failed to submit a “comprehensive file” to the National Bank of Belgium, even after receiving a three-month extension on the deadline to make the submission. 

Under its agreement with the European Commission, which told the bank it had to sell its subsidiaries after it received aid to keep it afloat in 2008 and 2009, KBC said it had no choice but to shut down the bank. KBC had already received two extensions on its original deadline to divest the bank when it reached an agreement with Yinren late last year. 

While KBC is outlining plans to begin the shutdown of ADB, it does seem the bank is holding on to some hope it will find a last-minute buyer, noting in its statement that it will “examine any valid and acceptable proposal that does not lead to any additional financial burden to acquire part or all of the activities of ADB or its loan portfolio.”

KBC noted that it has been trying since 2009 to find a suitable investor for the bank, speaking with more than 100 interested parties worldwide, but was unable to do so, underscoring an already well-known fact in the diamond and jewelry world: it is not an industry that many banks want to finance. KBC said it turned out to be a “real challenge” to find a buyer for the bank because of its niche in the diamond industry, the daily funding needs specific to a diamond bank and the general economic and market environment. 

The eventual likely exit of Antwerp Diamond Bank comes on the heels of Bank Leumi’s decision to shutter its diamond and jewelry portfolio by the end of 2014.

“We regret that a strong brand and a leading player in the diamond banking industry, with a long and rich history, will have to cease operations as a result (of the deal falling through),” KBC Group NV CEO Johan Thijs said.  


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