JHI Properties to manage newly launched Ascendant Property Fund

Making further inroads into the Zimbabwean market, JHI Properties is to manage the property portfolio of a new, unlisted property investment fund, Ascendant Property Fund (APF), which is acquiring 15 properties in three Zimbabwean cities from corporate vendors.

This brings the total number of commercial properties managed by JHI Properties Zimbabwe to approximately 50.

While South Africa based, JHI Properties continues to expand its base and service offering in African markets, and already operates offices Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Nigeria, Lesotho and Ghana.

Comments CEO Marna van der Walt: “There is no doubt that the Zimbabwean economy is growing and has recovered to some extent.  It is already experiencing exceptional growth in the retail market at a rate of some nine percent plus year on year. As a result, and coupled with its move to dollarization in 2009, Zimbabwe presents opportunities for significant further turnaround of its economy, and also offers positive business opportunities.”

APF was launched this month (June 2012), with just under 100 000 square metres of commercial real estate with a value of over $40 million, with the bulk situated in Harare, as well as properties in Bulawayo and Gweru.

Comments Kura Chihota, CEO of APF: “Initially the fund comprises a mainly industrial and mixed-use portfolio, however offices are targeted and bespoke retail development opportunities will be pursued. In addition, two development sites are under feasibility assessment.”

Chihota has established a 15-year track record of property investment and management in South Africa as a director of companies including Fortress Income Fund, Johannesburg Housing Company and Leapfrog Property Group.

He says: “With a risk appetite appropriate for the operating environment and a focus on sustainably growing rentals, the fund is actively pursuing growth in Zimbabwe. The key attribute of the portfolio is strong cash flow generated by quality leases from listed companies as tenants. Our vision is to grow the fund by acquiring commercial property assets from companies looking to raise funds from selling assets. Retail assets will be purchased and developed in line with income growth and demographic distribution.

“With the fund being Zimbabwean owned and invested here, the current liquidity challenges in the country are likely to provide a window of opportunity to acquire quality assets in the short to medium term at lower prices than comparable in Southern Africa. Property capital values are driven by rental yields, and Zimbabwe has seen a trebling of rentals in the past three years. The Zimbabwean economy is growing after years of decline and increased foreign direct investment in the country can only increase the demand for quality real estate provided by the fund. With Zimbabwe’s anticipated economic growth rate of nine percent per annum, prospects look promising.”

Chihota says JHI Properties is the chosen partner of the fund due to a demonstrated track record of managing property assets with an eye on containing costs while growing revenues. “The deep facilities and project management prowess of JHI enables the fund to exploit growth opportunities with a high level of technical expertise.”

He says while APF is a closed fund, with no new investment currently sought, it is likely to have future appeal for South African and international investors seeking exposure to African markets with higher yields and rental growth rates than those experienced in home markets.

JHI Properties was also recently appointed leasing agents for Joina City, a new landmark, one-stop urban city in Harare which incorporates four floors of shopping mall with 18 floors of offices above. Already approximately 15 000sqm of retail space has been let to anchor tenants such as Spar and Edgars. Finished to the highest standards, the office component has sweeping views over Harare’s central business district.

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