SA Shoprite billionaire returns  to diamond-hunting ventures Christo Wiese

Last year, the billionaire made a strategic business decision to unlock the value of his early investments in Shoprite Holdings, the continent’s largest retailer, by divesting US$49,45 million worth of his shares from Shoprite.

The 82-year-old serial investor told Bloomberg in an interview that he has always been fascinated by diamonds.

“I’ve always been fascinated by diamonds because it’s that amazing industry where you plod along and then one day stumble on a big stone that can change your whole life,” Wiese said. “This stretch of the Atlantic Ocean produces some of the world’s highest-quality diamonds.”

With dreams of discovering a significant diamond, Wiese, a self-made tycoon, has dedicated some of his eight-hour workdays in recent years to his mining business. He claims that the venture has already yielded a US$10 million pink diamond.

The business tycoon, whose net worth stands at US$1,2 billion, as per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index (a decrease from US$7 billion following huge losses during the 2017 collapse of the furniture stores chain Steinhoff International Holdings NV), is well aware of the path he is treading.

Trans Hex Group, the mining unit owned by Wiese and his son-in-law, has plans to explore other sought-after minerals and metals like phosphate, lithium, gold, and platinum over time. The company operates four large ships equipped with the necessary equipment to search for these treasures by vacuuming up gravel from the ocean floor. A state-of-the-art diamond recovery vessel can cost as much as US$420 million.

Wiese first got into alluvial diamonds in 1976 when he acquired a mine situated along the Orange River. This mine ranked as the largest in the country, trailing only those owned by Anglo-American De Beers, the world’s leading diamond producer.

Industry observers believe that Wiese’s renewed interest in diamond mining might be riskier than any of his ventures in the retail sector. This move indicates that he has not lost his appetite for adventure, even after facing huge losses from his investment in Steinhoff. — Business Insider Africa

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