Diamond group De Beers buys out retail partner LVMH

PARIS (Reuters) - Anglo American's diamond specialist De Beers has bought the 50 percent stake held by French luxury goods group LVMH in De Beers Diamond Jewellers for an undisclosed sum, taking full ownership of the retail operation.

Analysts said the joint venture no longer fitted LVMH's strategy, while Anglo American, which has long dominated global rough diamond sales, has been developing its presence on the high-margin diamond retail market.

LVMH had no comment. De Beers said in a statement that fully integrating De Beers Diamond Jewellers would enable the group to enhance value.

Anglo American, which along with other mining companies has largely recovered from a deep commodities downturn in 2015, has put diamonds, along with copper and platinum, at the heart of its portfolio.

One of the advantages of diamonds is that they are a counter-cyclical luxury product that can generate profits even when bulk industrial commodities are in a downturn.

De Beers Diamond Jewellers' retail network comprises 32 stores in 17 countries. This includes a growing business in greater China, an established presence in London and Paris, and a new flagship location in New York.

In addition, De Beers' Forevermark high-end diamond brand has expanded into 2,000 outlets globally and it says it expects the growth to continue this year.

Analysts said LVMH had finally ended a joint venture that dated back to when the group did not have any branded jewelry of its own.

"The situation is very different today, as they own one of the megabrands in this space: Bulgari," Luca Solca, analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, said.

"It seems appropriate therefore to turn the page on this and relegate it to the 'experiments that didn't work' pile."

Anglo American shares were 1.4 percent higher by 1200 GMT (8 a.m. ET) while LVMH was up 0.6 percent.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Pascale Denis in Paris and Barbara Lewis in London; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Evans)

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