Gemfields to Acquire Fabergé

Mining firm says jeweler enhances its reputation for colored gemstones.

LONDON — Three’s a charm — an emerald charm.

Gemfields plc, the mining and marketing company that specializes in emeralds and colored gemstones, has become the third miner to link up with a luxury retail jewelry brand in the past month.

On Wednesday, the publicly listed Gemfields announced it was buying 100 percent of the London-based Fabergé in a deal that values the latter at $142 million.

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In a joint statement with Fabergé, Gemfields said the jeweler would provide the miner with direct control over “a high-end luxury goods platform” and a global brand with an exceptional heritage.

“The proposed acquisition of Fabergé further enhances our potential to be recognized as the leading colored gemstone company,” said Ian Harebottle, Gemfields’ chief executive officer.

“It provides exposure to the two most profitable segments in the gemstones value chain, namely mining and consumer sales. Fabergé is a globally recognized brand with a unique heritage, a history of excellence and a commitment to colored gemstone products, sales and marketing,” he added.

According to the statement, the deal consolidates the Gemfields brand as The Coloured Gemstone Co. It also “creates a platform to increase the company’s market share within the colored gemstone sector, while gaining exposure to luxury sector multiples and greater influence over product positioning and consumer awareness.”

Gemfields will continue to sell its rough colored gemstone production through its established auction platform. The acquisition, which will be paid for in Gemfields shares, is set to be approved by shareholders at the company’s annual meeting next month.

Gemfields has been on an expansion streak: The London-based company that specializes in Zambian emeralds and colored gemstones is amping up its U.S. presence through a series of initiatives.

It has a new office in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, plans to build an American division and will have a revamped Web site launching in January. In the pipeline is its first official U.S. ad campaign and a slew of high-end designer collaborations.

The firm, which provides about 20 percent of the world’s emerald supply, wants to establish itself as an ethical, fashion-forward luxury brand.

It’s not the first marriage of mining and luxury the market has seen recently: Over the past month, Harry Winston purchased the Ekati Diamond Mine and Diamonds Marketing Operations from BHP Billiton, and separately, a subsidiary of Tiffany & Co. has extended a $6 million term loan to DiamondCorp plc, the South African diamond development and exploration company.

As part of the loan agreement, Tiffany’s subsidiary will have the right to purchase production from DiamondCorp’s Lace Mine in South Africa.

Gemfields purchased Fabergé from Pallinghurst Resources and other investors who were operating through a holding company called Rox Ltd. Pallinghurst, which purchased the Fabergé trademarks and licenses from Unilever in 2007, has spearheaded Fabergé’s revival and its ambitions to position itself alongside the great heritage brands of the fine jewelry world such as Cartier, Harry Winston and Tiffany.

Gemfields and Pallinghurst are two companies that know each other well: One of the executive directors of Gemfields is Sean Gilbertson, the son of Pallinghurst founder and chairman Brian Gilbertson.

Until now, Pallinghurst and one of its subsidiaries held a majority stake in Gemfields through Rox Ltd., but Rox will be dismantled as a result of the Fabergé takeover, with shares handed back to its various investors. When the deal is finalized, Pallinghurst will become Gemfields’ shareholder of reference, with just less than half the shares.

Fabergé has boutiques and retail concessions in Geneva, New York, London in Mayfair and Harrods in Knightsbridge, and Hong Kong.

According to the statement on Wednesday, Fabergé is set for growth, with revenues rising 367 percent in the financial year to March 31, 2012. In the fiscal year to June 30, 2012, Gemfields’ revenues were up 108 percent to $83.7 million with profit before tax and exceptional items up 140 percent to $47.8 million.

According to the statement, Fabergé is aiming to open an average of two stores per annum over the next 10 years, with an aim of 71 stores by 2033. Fabergé is targeting $6.5 million of annual sales in the medium term for each store added.