Diamond Giant Leviev in Joint Venture With Bulgari

Diamond mogul Lev Leviev is expanding his sway in Europe. The Israeli-Russian tycoon has signed an agreement establishing a joint venture with the Italian jewelry company Bulgari.

Leviev runs the world's largest business in cutting diamonds. His group focuses on polishing, processing and selling.

Under the agreement the Leviev group reports, the joint venture will operate out of Switzerland. Bulgari International Corporation, registered in the Netherlands, and Leviev's company LLD Diamonds will control it equally.

The joint venture will assure the supply of competitively priced raw diamonds to Bulgari, including rare rarest blue, red, pink and green stones, which will be using them in its jewelry. Leviev will receive access to the prestigious European diamond market.

Leviev's group maintains cutting facilities in Israel, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the U.S. It runs its own mines in Angola, Russia, Namibia and elsewhere.

Francesco Trapani, the CEO at the Bulgari Group, commented: "I am very satisfied to have ventured with the Leviev Group that I believe to be the most professional, powerful and international company in the diamond industry. This agreement will have a strategic role in helping us consolidate our leadership position in the jewelry world market."

Bulgari's turnover in 2003 was 760 million euros. It sells through 180 stores around the world, including in Tel Aviv. It also became involved in the hotel business in 2001 in Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, a joint venture with Luxury Group, which runs the Ritz Carlton chain.

Leviev Group's diamond business turnover in 2003 was about $2.5 billion, the firm said in its statement.