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Alrosa's rough diamond sales end 2019 on 9-month high of US$352M in December

Russian diamond miner PJSC Alrosa's sales of rough stones grew for a fifth consecutive month in December 2019, to a nine-month high of US$352.1 million, after falling to just US$164.6 million in July 2019.

The 25% swell in rough diamond sales from November 2019's US$282.1 million total brought total takings for 2019 to US$3.27 billion, according to a Jan. 13 news release, down 26% from US$4.41 billion in 2018.

"Alrosa's rough diamond sales demonstrated three months of consecutive [year-over-year] growth, indicating that the situation on the diamond market is improving. We expect the market to continue restoring in 2020," BCS Global Markets analysts wrote in a Jan. 13 note.

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The state-owned mining company's sales of polished gemstones doubled month over month to US$11.6 million in December 2019, resulting in total monthly sales of US$363.8 million, compared to US$287.8 million in the previous month.

Alrosa shares were trading up 2.9% at 91.89 rubles apiece by early evening in Moscow.

"In December, we observed signs of stabilising diamond demand that had emerged earlier in the second half of the year amid the gradual restoration of market balance. This was largely supported by a flexible sales strategy of mining companies," Deputy CEO Evgeny Agureev said in the statement.

Cutters and retailers began 2019 with large stocks of stones in anticipation of strong demand that failed to materialize, Agureev added. Nevertheless, analysts expect the market to pick up in 2020 as prices recover.

"There is robust demand for jewelry from end consumers," Agureev said, noting that preliminary data on Christmas sales shows year-over-year growth in some regions.

Rival diamond producer De Beers SA reported a 22% year-over-year slump in sales of rough stones to US$425 million in its 10th and final sales cycle of 2019. De Beers is 85%-owned by London-listed Anglo American PLC, with the remainder held by the Government of Botswana.

Russia assumed the rotating chair of the United Nations-mandated Kimberley Process — which seeks to prevent the flow of "conflict" stones used in part to finance wars — from India at the start of 2020, with Botswana serving as vice chair.

As of Jan. 10, US$1 was equivalent to 61.06 Russian rubles.