Two diamond companies remove their cutting facilities from Antwerp. Several other companies want to fill that void, but they do not get financing here. “We can continue this for a while, but not forever”, warns the office of Ludo Van Campenhout (N-VA), the city council member responsible for diamonds.
Laurelton, daughter company of the famous American jewelery concern Tiffany, removed its cutting activities from Antwerp. According to Gazet van Antwerpen, a smaller South African-Mauritian company, GemTech, plans to do the same. In total, forty diamond cutters would lose their job, as a result of this move.
However, according to both the Van Campenhout office and the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC) there is no reason to panic. Tiffany buys rough diamonds in Botswana, which requires the company to have part of the cutting done in the country. According to AWDC spokesperson Margaux Donckier, it is also mainly a restructuring. “Laurelton is going to work more demand-oriented. The headquarters will remain in Antwerp, because sorting stones is our specialty.”
Nevertheless, the AWDC admits that the market in Antwerp is “tight” due to financing problems. KBC closed down the Antwerp Diamond Bank three years ago. Since then it has been very difficult for small and medium-sized diamond companies – which are in the majority in the port – to open an account from a bank, let alone get credit.
“That is a huge problem”, admits Stefan Bogaert, Van Campenhout’s cabinet chief. “We can sustain that for a moment, but not forever.”
However, many diamond companies are eager to come to Antwerp, says Bogaert. “There were more favorable tax structures for them in competing diamond centres such as Dubai or Tel Aviv, but they are now going to levy additional taxes on diamonds.”
The Brussels Times