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otswana has set aside 890-million pula ($65-million) to buy shares in Belgian diamond trader HB Antwerp, national budget documents show, advancing a deal that President Mokgweetsi Masisi said in November was about to be finalised.

The deal would value the Belgian company, founded in 2020, at $275-million, according to Reuters calculations. HB Antwerp recorded $251-million revenue in 2022, according to its website.

During talks for a new sales contract with De Beers in March, Botswana announced a deal to buy a 24% stake in HB Antwerp and to supply it with rough diamonds for five years via the state-owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC).

Finance minister Peggy Serame did not say how much the HB Anterp shareholding was expected to cost in her 2024/25 national budget speech on Monday, but expenditure estimates published on Wednesday and seen by Reuters show the figure to be 890-million pula.

The diamond market is struggling to recover from the impact of excessive inventories last year following weak demand and pressure from lab-grown gems.

The proposed deal came under the spotlight in September when Lucara Diamond Corp, which owns Karowe mine in Botswana, terminated its sales agreement with HB Antwerp, citing financial irregularities.

HB Antwerp Botswana spokesperson Bonjo Mathumo said the company would not comment on the deal.

Botswana has said the deal was an opportunity for the country to benefit from the money to be made from the diamond downstream industry, including cutting and polishing, a prospect that Masisi says it did not have under previous agreements with De Beers.

Botswana and De Beers last June agreed on a ten-year diamond sales agreement, which will lift ODC’s share of Debswana output to 30% from 25% previously, increasing to 40% in five years’ time and eventually 50% by the end of the new contract.