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29 March 2012

Standard Bank grabs crown in home loans

Standard Bank grabs crown in home loans

Standard Bank has overtaken Absa to become the mortgage bond market leader in South Africa, increasing the size of its home loan book to R275 billion from R244bn over the past 18 months.

Steven Barker, the head of home loans at Standard Bank, said yesterday that the lender had an overall market share of 32 percent at the end of last year, compared with about 27 percent previously, and it financed about one in three of all new mortgage advances.

The growth in Standard Bank's mortgage loan book is related to it writing a lot more business because not all its bank competitors, particularly Absa, have had as strong an appetite as in the past for providing mortgage finance.

Reserve Bank data showed that at the end of January last year Absa was the market leader with 30.57 percent of new mortgage advances, followed by Standard Bank (30.7 percent), Firstrand (18.48 percent) and Nedbank (16.83 percent).

Standard Bank has grown its mortgage bond book at a time when there has been a slump in the property market, resulting in a contraction in the number and value of home loans approved and granted.

Barker said that new mortgage advances totalled R360bn in 2007 but only R120bn in new mortgage advances were granted last year.

The strong growth in Standard Bank's mortgage bond book had demanded that it spend a lot of time understanding the risk of loans granted and pricing these loans appropriately to take into account the risk, he said. The bank still provided 100 percent loans for houses under R1.5 million, particularly to its own banking customers and people with lower risk, but it was more selectively than in the past.

However, Barker said that the bank generally needed a 10 percent deposit for loans of more than R1.5 million and expected a 20 percent deposit for loans greater than R2.5 million.

Barker said foreclosures of mortgage bonds were still high but were starting to move in the right direction.

Non-performing loans were declining although the bank would like this to happen faster but the property market was not providing a major underpin to allow distressed borrowers to exit the market.

Barker said the level of prepayment of mortgage bonds was lower than in the past, which was indicative that the purchasing power of consumers was being eroded by the steady incline in consumer price inflation and the strain households were still under to reduce debt.

Prepayment refers to households paying more than the minimum monthly repayment amount on their mortgage bonds. Barker said the only reason many households could afford to carry their current debt levels was because interest rates were low.

Sibusiso Gumbi, a home loans analyst at Standard Bank Research, said the deleveraging of household debt was continuing but at a snail's pace and household debt to disposable income was still not far off the peak of 82 percent.

Gumbi said the country's poor economic growth outlook, coupled with feeble economic consumer confidence and rising inflation, painted an uninspiring outlook for consumer spending and house price growth this year was likely to mirror this.

He said house price growth remained fairly muted last year, with Standard Bank's median year-on-year house price growth negative at minus 0.5 percent in December.

Business Report

Commercial properties beat the market

Commercial properties beat the market

Directly held commercial property outperformed equities and bonds in South Africa last year.

The SA Property Owners Association's property index, International Property Databank (IPD), released yesterday, showed property unit trust listed property funds achieved a return of 12.2 percent and directly held property posted a 10.4 percent return last year, compared with 2.6 percent for the equity market and 10.1 percent for bonds.

South Africa's overall commercial real estate market achieved modest growth last year, with a 10.4 percent return.

Uncertainty in global markets, weak local demand and slowing consumer confidence resulted in muted capital growth of only 1.4 percent while income returns were steady at 8.9 percent.

The index is based on a sample of 2 017 properties with a capital value of R204.8 billion at the end of December.

IPD South Africa managing director Stan Garrun said yesterday that the results confirmed the impact of global economic instability and subdued conditions locally on real estate investment performance.

He said high operating costs and a serious mismatch between demand and supply were taking their toll on returns.

"While these figures do not necessarily point to further recessionary conditions, they do indicate that it is a long haul back to pre-2008 levels. The good news is that prime assets are performing well in all sectors. Any economic uplift should quickly release major new income growth for both tenants and landlords, as well as a pent up property development pipeline," he added.

Garrun said fundamentals were placing downward pressure on rentals and bottom line returns even at national level and vacancies rose from 6.6 percent to 6.9 percent, rental growth reduced to 6.2 percent and rental yields softened by 36 basis points to 9.6 percent.

Retail property achieved the strongest capital growth of the three main sectors for the third consecutive year with a 10.1 percent return, comprising an 8.3 percent income return and 1.6 percent capital growth.

The office sector produced a return of 11.2 percent, comprising 1.3 percent capital growth and a 9.7 percent income return. Industrial property managed a return of 11.9 percent, with a 10.4 percent income return and 1.4 percent capital growth.

Business Report

Public input invited for new Rental Housing Bill

Public input invited for new Rental Housing Bill

The public is invited to respond to the redrafted Rental Housing Bill that was introduced on October 28, 2011, in the National Assembly.

The portfolio committee on human settlements met twice to consider submissions, and after much debate, had the Bill redrafted.

Written submissions must reach the committee secretary by 4pm next Thursday, April 5, 2012, with public hearings in parliament scheduled for April 24-25.

A public notice issued by Beauty Nomhle Dambuza, MP and chairwoman of the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements states, among other things:

"The Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements had embarked on the process of redrafting the Rental Housing Amendment Bill. During the process of public hearings and oversight visits, the committee had witnessed irregularities in the rental sector.

"The committee is of the opinion that the Act should address the challenges the country faces in respect of the rental sector. Therefore, the committee invites all interested persons and stakeholders to submit written comments on the redrafted Rental Housing Amendment Bill, which must reach the committee by 4pm on Thursday, April 5, 2012."

This time around the Bill proposes more radical changes and with focus on tenants' experiencing economic hardships. Below are some of the e-mail changes envisaged and the possible reasons for these changes and intended outcomes:

The introduction of rights and obligations in the heading. Instead of relations between tenants and landlords, it will read "rights and obligations of tenants and landlords". It is not only what parties expect as their rights, but also what they need to give (obligations) to make their relationship successful. Rights therefore exist together with obligations.

Membership will change to seven. A provincial tribunal will function as two committees, each with three members. This will allow tribunals to conduct two hearings, even simultaneously, reduce case backlogs, register a greater number of complaints and reach out to more areas within a province.

Members do not have adequate knowledge, skills and training to perform the tribunal's dispute resolution tasks. The proposed changes will make it the national government's duty to fund programmes to train members and staff of the tribunals. This is essential for tribunals to perform more efficiently, provided the programmes are developed with great care. Several "courses" in the past were more cut-and-paste of legal issues and the reproduction of the Act.

The common-law position of leases will change. Where the common law allowed parties the choice to enter into a lease orally or in writing, all leases must be in writing. A simple pro-forma lease agreement in 11 official languages will be part of the proposed changes. It must also contain "minimum requirements for a lease agreement which may be used as a guideline by the tenants and landlords".

"Landlords must maintain the structure of and provision of utilities to the dwelling." This changes the right landlords had through contract law to pass over their common-law obligations.

Each province must have a Rental Housing Tribunal and all local municipalities are required to establish rental housing information offices. In terms of section 14 (3), the following would be the functions of the information offices:

(a) educate, provide information and advise tenants and landlords on their rights and obligations in relation to dwellings in its area of jurisdiction;

(b) provide advice to disputing parties on reaching solutions to problems relating to dwellings;

(c) refer parties to the tribunal;

(d) comply with any request of the tribunal in terms of section 13; and

(e) keep records of enquiries received by the office and to submit reports in relation thereto to the tribunal on a quarterly basis.

As for poor tenants, the proposed addition includes intervention by national government, making it compulsory for the minister to:

(a) monitor and assess the impact of the application of this Act on poor and vulnerable tenants; and

(b) take such action as he or she deems necessary to alleviate hardships that may be suffered by such tenants.

(6) For purposes of subsection (5), the minister may define criteria based on age, income, or other form or degree of vulnerability that apply to such tenants or group of tenants, and amend or augment the policy framework on rental housing referred to in subsection (3) in such a manner as he or she sees fit."
Written submissions for the Rental Housing Amendment Bill (B21-2011) or enquiries should be made to Koliswa Pasiya at kpasiya-AT-parliament.gov-DOT-za, or by telephone at 021 403 3725, 083 709 8495 or fax 086 666 0984.

Daily News

20 March 2012

Capital Gains Tax 'to affect property pricing'

Capital Gains Tax 'to affect property pricing'

The news about capital gains tax in the 2012 Budget has brought further relief for sellers of primary residences in some respects, but the general increase of the CGT rates will have a definite and immediate effect on the pricing of property.

This is according to Herschel Jawitz, chief executive of Jawitz Properties.

"Primary residences sold from March 1, 2012, for R2 million and more, the first R2m will be exempt from CGT. This is an increase of R500 000 over the previous R1.5m threshold.

"However, there is a substantial increase in the inclusion rate of the taxable net profit individuals realise when they sell, from 25 percent to 33.3 percent. This will translate into an average rate of CGT an individual pays of 13.3 percent, which is substantially up from the previous average of 10 percent," Jawitz says.

"The increase from a 50 percent inclusion rate to 66.6 percent will apply when a company or close corporation sells a property, which translates into an average of 18.6 percent, up from the previous 14 percent, and trusts' rates have increased from 20 percent to 26.7 percent.

"The increase in the inclusion rate when an entity sells a property is a further indication of SARS'S eagerness to encourage investors to take transfer of residences into their names, as entities are to be used mainly for trading purposes."

CGT is not a flat rate charged by SARS. Rather, it's a calculation based on the net profit realised, which is then added to an individual's income and taxed according to the tax tables. Furthermore, it's a rollover tax, which means that, even though the tax is triggered on the date the agreement is signed, it only becomes payable when the income tax return is submitted at the end of the financial year during which the property was sold.

Jawitz says the impact of the increase from 50 percent to 66 percent is substantial. If a home is owned in a legal entity then the actual tax payable to SARS will be as much as a third higher than last year, taking into account that the R2m exemption does not apply.

However, a number of deductions can be made against the gross profit, Jawitz says. These include any renovations that were carried out and which will qualify as improvements to the property; estate agents' commission and VAT on commission; attorneys' fees including VAT; and other fees for other professionals such as architects, draughtsmen, and beetle, electrical, gas and plumbing inspectors. However, costs for routine maintenance, such as painting the property, may not be deducted.

"Nevertheless, the increase in the rate of CGT on properties owned in legal entities continues to make it financially prohibitive to own property in this way. Owners need to make sure that they carefully consider the merits of owning property in legal entities.

"The tax amnesty period for properties to be transferred out of entities and into individual ownership is still available until December 31.

"Owners of properties in trusts, companies and close corporations would be well advised to consider taking advantage of t he amnesty before it expires," Jawitz says.

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

R4 billion property develpment planned for V&A

R4 billion property develpment planned for V&A

Several sites at the V&A Waterfront - SA's most valuable piece of real estate - will undergo a multibillion-rand facelift over the next two decades and will boast more luxury hotels, high-end flats and stylish new office blocks.

An artist's impression of the proposed new development behind the Clocktower precinct.

Today, the Cape Argus can reveal how, over the next 10 years, more than R4 billion will be spent on redeveloping parts of the precinct.

The new construction, including a high-rise residential building - which will double the number of hotels and office blocks - is just part of the massive development planned.

The vision is for the area to become a place for people to work, live and play.

Construction work behind the old grain silo.

The granary, including the massive silos at the back-end of the Clock Tower precinct with their cathedral-like stature, will become the centrepiece where huge office blocks are to be constructed.

Construction has already started and it's expected that this part of the development will cost in the region of R1.5bn.

Another development, near the Buitengracht Street entrance to the Waterfront, will cost up to R2bn and will include high-rise blocks of flats and offices.

Within the next few years, nine new hotels - in addition to the 10 already on the precinct - and blocks of flats will be built on Granger Bay.

The cost of these has not yet been calculated.

An area map of the V&A Waterfront.

Of the 600 000m2 of land at the Waterfront, 380 000m2 has been developed. The remaining 220 000m2 will be developed over the next two decades.

The 80 000m2 area at the back of the Clock Tower would change the derelict side of the historic working harbour into a magnificent area to live, work and play, said Waterfront chief executive David Green.

At 18 000m2, one of the city's biggest office blocks is currently under construction. It will house one of the largest privately-owned Cape Town-based investment management companies.

There were also plans to build 1000 residential units and a number of office blocks at the entrance to the Waterfront, said Green.

It's been just over a year since Growthpoint and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), representing the government employees' pension fund, jointly bought the Waterfront for just more than R9.7bn.

The deal between them and previous owners, Dubai World's Istithmar PJSC, London & Regional Consortium and a BEE consortium which bough the Waterfront from Transnet in 2006 for R7bn, was signed in June.

Green said they were first concentrating on developing the area around the Clock Tower before moving to the Gateway (near the Buitengracht Street entrance) and further down the line to Granger Bay, where some of the hotels and residential units would be built.
The Granger Bay development would be linked to Somerset Road in Green Point.

"In starting our development in and around the grain silos, we've focused on how the precinct will embrace the historic landmark, the former grain elevator and silo buildings," he said.

"We have land available for development and are doing it in a considered manner while honouring the initial vision for the Waterfront and ensuring it remains the most desirable place for Capetonians to live, work, shop, play, stay and eat.

"Our growth strategy has always been to grow the Waterfront property in precincts, starting small in the biggest possible way, concentrating our initial development to avoid random growth.

"Currently there are already nine precincts within the Waterfront development."

Development at the V&A Waterfront was market-led and meticulously planned, he said.

On the silos, Green said: "These buildings will be the centrepiece of a public plaza. We have not yet determined the use for the grain elevator and silo building, however we are looking at a variety of exciting options and are open to proposals which incorporate a combination of public civic space and commercial development and embrace the landmark historic buildings.

In keeping with the city's policy of "densification", at least one of the buildings at the Gateway will be a high rise, built close to the under-construction Portside, but not rivalling what will become the city's tallest skyscraper.

In November 1988, the V&A Waterfront was established as a wholly owned subsidiary by Transnet to redevelop the docklands around the Victoria and Alfred basins as a mixed-use area with a focus on retail, tourism and residential development, with the continued operation of a working harbour.

In 2006, Transnet sold the Waterfront to Dubai World's Istithmar PJSC, London & Regional Consortium, and a BEE consortium for R7 billion. it was South Africa's most expensive single property transaction.

Last February, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), owned by the Government Pension Fund, and Growthpoint Properties Limited, announced they had bought the Waterfront for just more than R9.7bn.

About 64 percent (383 833 square metres) has been developed, and about 36 percent (220 035 square metres) remains available for development.

About 21 million people visit the Waterfront annually.

Cape Argus

State rent arrears hurt property owners

State rent arrears hurt property owners

A central Johannesburg building occupied by government entities might be closed down by its owner because of failure to pay rent, Rick Curry, the managing director of property management company Curry Group, said yesterday.

The old JSE building in central Joburg.

Statistics SA and the SAPS have leases on offices in the Stock Exchange Building, off Diagonal Street. Curry said Stats SA owed R1.74 million for rent and had not paid since September 26 last year, and the SAPS owed R1.8 million, with the last payment being on November 10 last year. The owner of the building is Hostprops 85.

Government office accommodation is leased by the Department of Public Works on behalf of client departments.

Lebo Lebiya, who works at the leasing section at the department's regional office in Johannesburg, said yesterday that the department was facing challenges when it came to leases as these had been moved from the regional offices to the national office in Pretoria.

"Top management are taking time to respond in terms of giving us a mandate. It is a national issue and is beyond our control. Decisions are coming from above our level, causing serious problems," he said.
The Department of Public Works is technically under administration by the National Treasury. This is because of several bunglings on leases, including the controversial R1.6 billion police headquarters under former public works ministers Jeff Doidge and Gwen Mahlangu-nkabinde.

In a statement on November 8 last year, the department said that Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi had a briefing with top management and described how in a short space of time after his appointment he had come to regard the whole area of lease contract management as potentially liable to controversy.

In response, Nxesi had, with immediate effect, instructed the acting director-general, Mandla Mabuza, to withdraw all procurement delegations in the department with regard to the signing and approval of all leases, as well as procurement of certain items.

The statement said an operational task team made up of property management experts would in the interim advise both the department and Nxesi regarding such requests and ensuring there were no backlogs and that service delivery routine was not compromised.

"The minister's action, among others, has been prompted by the public outcry around procurement of office accommodation and other moveable assets for client departments, and this was confirmed by the outcomes of investigations instituted by the government in acknowledgements of certain doubts and misgivings so publicly expressed," it said.

Curry said the statement by Lebiya that the department was facing challenges was unbelievable. He said the Curry Group had issued summonses against the department, which now had 10 days within which to respond.

Curry said: "We are pursuing vigorously the court action. The landlord might give us authority to close the building down. The department ignores our e-mails."

Estienne de Klerk, the executive director of listed Growthpoint, said his company did not have a huge exposure to government leases. However, he added: "Public Works is known to be a difficult client but we are resolving the issues."

Business Report

15 March 2012

Possible plea bargain in Machanik case

Possible plea bargain in Machanik case

Former estate agent Wendy Machanik's case was postponed by the Commercial Crime Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday for a possible plea bargain agreement.

The postponement to May 7 was to allow for negotiations in terms of section 105(a) of the Criminal Procedures Act, which permits a guilty plea in exchange for information, the court heard.

Bail for Machanik and her co-accused Bruce Bernstein was extended. Bernstein was also allowed to have his passport back so he could travel to the United States to see his sick brother.

"The state is in no fear that he is a flight risk," prosecutor Adele Carstens said.

On May 7, a date for confirmation of a plea bargain, if reached, would be set, or if the negotiations failed, a trial date would be set.

The two were arrested last year on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, failure to keep accounting records and failure to reflect over 100 transfers between the company's trust and business accounts.

The amount involved is around R28 million.


14 March 2012

Implications of the Consumer Protection Act on property

Implications of the Consumer Protection Act on property

A tidal wave of press comment on the implications of the new Consumer Protection Act has hit the media in recent months - and among those most concerned about it are South Africa's estate agents and their principals.

For this reason Gunston Attorneys' Commercial Director, Trudie Broekmann, has investigated the impact of the act on estate agents' mandates.

In terms of the act, said Broekmann, the mandated estate agent supplies services and possibly, goods, to the principal, as well as to the potential purchaser, tenant or even seller, where the agent was mandated to find a property for a purchaser to buy. The agent is consequently a 'supplier' as defined in the act, and in that role, needs to ensure that he or she complies with the many relevant provisions of the act when interacting with buyers, sellers and tenants.

"The mandate deals with the relationship between the agent and the principal, and may not contravene the act. In addition," said Broekmann, "it can and should also be used to protect the agent against some of the most onerous legal risks in the act."

The new act, she added, is aimed primarily at protecting individuals and vulnerable consumers. For this reason it will only apply fully to a transaction where the purchaser is a juristic person (defined to include a company, close corporation, trust, association, partnership and body corporate) which has assets and turnover below R2 million, or an individual or individuals. The financial position of the purchaser entity at the time of concluding the agreement is relevant, as well as the position as at date of transfer.

A big question now, said Broekmann, is what estate agents can do to protect themselves under the new legal conditions. This, she said, is necessary because the act contains several 'radical' provisions to protect consumers which did not previously form part of South Africa's body of legislation. The first of these provisions is that, unless both seller and agent are juristic persons, the seller now has the right to cancel the mandate he has signed at any time (even one day after signing) provided he gives 20 business days' written notice to the agent. This right overrides any period signed for in the mandate document. The agent can provide for a cancellation penalty in the mandate, but it must comply with the principles in the regulations to the Consumer Protection Act.

As it now stands, added Broekmann, the act also appears to have the effect that a mandate is automatically renewed on its expiry, so that it runs on a month-to-month basis. Redrafting of mandate agreements will, therefore, said Broekmann, be necessary to resolve the uncertainties here and ensure that mandates can effectively come to an end at the time agreed between the agent and the principal.

Equally radical, said Broekmann, is section 48 of the act which stipulates that all prices and terms affecting the consumer have to be fair, reasonable and just. "This wording," said Broekmann, "is obviously hard to interpret in a particular factual situation, and it is still too early to know how the National Consumer Tribunal will interpret it."

Giving an example, Broekmann said that until now estate agents have sometimes been able to claim commission on signed sales agreements negotiated by them where, through no fault of theirs, the sale did not materialise, e.g. if the buyer absconded. This practice will now in all probability be deemed unfair to the consumer (the seller). An unfair, unreasonable or unjust clause is void, and in certain cases, can mean the entire contract becomes void.

Similarly, said Broekmann, when an agent even in these difficult times is able to sell a very high priced property in a very short space of time the Tribunal (if appealed to) might judge that the agreed commission was not fair, reasonable or just, as it was too easily earned and could authorise a reduction in it. It has to be understood, said Broekmann, that the act will supersede written agreements.

Yet another radical section in the act, said Broekmann, imposes a duty on the supplier (the agent) to draw to the attention of the consumer (usually the seller) 'in a conspicuous manner' and before the agreement is signed any condition which limits the liability of the supplier or imposes a risk or liability on the consumer. Furthermore, the consumer has to sign or initial the condition to show his or her assent.

Section 22 of the act stipulates that estate agents' mandates (as well as all other relevant documents) must be written in 'plain' language so that a consumer with 'average literacy skills' and minimal experience in selling property can be expected to understand it 'without undue effort'.

"These provisions of the act," said Broekmann, "necessitate careful redrafting and layout of agreements and the setting up of a watertight procedure to be followed by the agent before a consumer is asked to sign."

Broekmann added that any statement, whether made verbally or in the course of direct marketing or in any marketing literature, has to be totally free of statements that could be deemed to be misleading. If it can be shown later that the buyer was misled in any way, or even that the agent made a statement without reasonable grounds for believing it to be true, then not only can the agent be held responsible, but also possibly the seller, and the penalties for breach of the act are severe. Broekmann recommends that principals insist that an indemnity in their favour is included in the mandate, in case the agent contravenes the act.

The act stipulates that the agent has to provide a written sales record (which complies with section 26 of the act) to every consumer to whom he or she has provided services or goods. This record would include such details as the agent's full name, VAT registration number, if any, their address, the dates on which the agreement was concluded and the services were rendered or goods supplied, a description of the goods or services and the price.

The agent's services will now also have to comply with certain 'warranties of quality'. Here the act calls for the 'timely performance and completion of services' as well as 'timely notice of any unavoidable delay in the performance of these services'. It also stipulates that the manner and the quality of these services should be what the consumer is 'entitled to expect'.

"An interesting aspect of this section," said Broekmann, "is that a demanding seller might read it as giving him the right to complain to the National Consumer Commission if a sale does not materialise or if the sale takes too long. This would be a difficult proposition to defend - but it is a possibility."

Just how serious non-compliance with the act might be is shown by the penalties that the Tribunal is entitled to impose. These can amount to 10% of the agency's annual turnover in its previous financial year or R1 million, whichever is greater.

Furthermore, section 113 of the act provides that the principal is 'jointly and severally' liable for the misdemeanours of his estate agents. This is yet another reason why Broekmann recommends that principals insist on an indemnity before signing a mandate.

"Estate agents, for their part," she said, "must familiarise themselves with the act, have their documents redrafted by a consumer law expert and take professional advice if they want to avoid landing themselves in serious difficulties."

Gunston Attorneys Press Release

Concourt sends tenants in lease row to tribunal

Concourt sends tenants in lease row to tribunal

A group of tenants whose leases were cancelled to make way for more expensive apartments must take the matter back to the Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal, the Constitutional Court has ruled.

"The tribunal is empowered to determine whether a landlord committed an 'unfair practice', and it might accordingly rule in the tenants' favour," said Justice Edwin Cameron.

Aengus Lifestyle Properties, which specialises in buying old Joburg buildings and revamping them into modern apartments, had given notice to tenants of Lowliebenhof, Braamfontein, leases.

Aengus wanted to revamp the building so it offered the tenants alternative accommodation, with the option to stay on but paying higher rent.

The tenants lodged a complaint with the tribunal, a body established under the Rental Housing Act, but mediation was unsuccessful.

When the landlord brought eviction proceedings against them in the High Court in Joburg, they withdrew their case and challenged their eviction.

Cameron, reading the majority judgment, said when the matter was escalated to the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal, those courts found the Rental Housing Act did not apply and that the landlord was entitled to terminate the leases with written notice.

However, the Concourt found the two previous courts failed to give adequate weight to the act and that the landlord's conduct may have amounted to an unfair practice. The tenants had not withdrawn their complaint of unfair practices, and so that complaint and any other the landlord might have about the rental rate should be considered by the tribunal.

The court gave the tenants until May 2 to lodge a complaint with the tribunal.

Pretoria News

13 March 2012

Joburg residents complain about illegal buildings and land use

Joburg residents complain about illegal buildings and land use

The lack of by-law enforcement, especially around illegal buildings and land use, is the main concern for residents living in Joburg's Region B, which covers Sandton and Alexandra.

At a mayoral roadshow held to hear residents' main concerns in their area, the issue of the flagrant disregard for building regulations by property owners came to the fore.

Residents of suburbs such as Riverpark in Alexandra and Orange Grove complained that nothing was being done about illegal buildings and the erection of shacks.

Riverpark residents said the number of shacks going up in the area was of concern because it was leading to overcrowding and illegal land use.

There were also no toilet facilities, which was leading to shack dwellers using the Jukskei River for their ablutions.

In suburbs such as Lombardy East, property owners were building back rooms and renting them out at a handsome profit.

In one case, a court order was obtained for the demolition of the rooms, but this was ignored by the owner, who simply continues renting out the rooms.

Other areas of concern that Alex residents raised were: the lack of an integrated master plan for Alex; failure to manage and allocate housing; basic service delivery issues such as water leakages, dumping, littering and illegal connections; uncontrolled land invasion; the ratio of toilets versus the number of people who use them, and dilapidated sewerage infrastructure; rodent control; and illegal dumping.

In the wider Region E areas, ineffective law enforcement was the main gripe.

The invasion and overcrowding of abandoned houses that were leading to unhealthy living conditions; illegal activities; incorrect billing; the inability of people's centres and the Joburg Connect centre to assist residents in resolving their queries; neglected provincial and councilowned property; and vagrancy were the main issues. City of Joburg member of the mayoral committee for finance Geoff Makhubu addressed the gathering, standing in for mayor Parks Tau.

He said all the concerns would be conveyed to the relevant departments.

Makhubu expressed concern at the high number of residents complaining about the lack of building by-law enforcement.

"I can see how widespread this problem is - it cuts across all areas," he said.

The Star

12 March 2012

Building index climbs most in nine months

Building index climbs most in nine months

"Investors are seeing opportunity" – analyst.

Construction-stocks gauge rose the most in nine months on expectations that the outlook for the industry is improving.

The ten-member FTSE/JSE Africa Construction & Building Materials index climbed 2,5% to 44,81 at the close in Johannesburg, its biggest increase since June 7. Pretoria Portland Cement Co led gains.

“The construction sector may have bottomed” after the index fell 26% last year, Henre Herselman, a derivatives trader at Nedbank Group’s BoE Stockbrokers in Johannesburg, said by phone. “Investors are seeing opportunity.”

President Jacob Zuma announced plans for a “massive” infrastructure drive in his February 9 state-of-the-nation speech to help spur investment and support growth in the continent’s biggest economy. The Treasury allocated R844,5 billion to telecommunications, energy, transportation, housing and water projects in the three years through March 2015.

Pretoria Portland Cement, South Africa’s biggest cement producer, rallied 4,1% to R31,35, bringing its gain this year to 14%. Murray & Roberts Holdings, the second-largest construction company, rose 3% to R29,25. Group Five added 1,7% to R27,72 rand while Aveng advanced 1,9% to R36,70.

Sapoa mulls court action on surcharge

Sapoa mulls court action on surcharge

The South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa) is on the verge of taking the eThekwini Municipality to the High Court in a legal effort to have the development surcharges that are being levied against property developers declared illegal and thus withdrawn from implementation.

Developers of commercial and multi-unit residential property are having to shell out for this development fee, which the municipality says is a surcharge for infrastructure, as well as the traditional development charges for new projects. This is affecting the feasibility of such developments as well as making the cost of buying property in the Durban area extremely high.

In November 2010, Sapoa made written representations to the municipality on what were then its 2010/11 tariffs, which included a development surcharge.

Sapoa says the surcharge is indistinguishable from the development charge proposed in the draft policy. When this was repeated in the 2011/2012 tariffs, Sapoa took a stand on the matter, and is in the process of challenging the legality of what was described in the draft policy as a "development charge".

"Notwithstanding what Sapoa considers to be the illegality of the development surcharges, a review conducted on its behalf shows that the inclusion of a development surcharge tariff, unique to ethekwini, makes i t the most expensive municipality in which to undertake a number of types of commercial development," says Sapoa's legal services manager, Portia Matsane.

The review tracked the municipal tariffs associated with four development scenarios, namely residential, regional retail centres, commercial office blocks and large industrial factories.

"This represents a significant challenge in the city's efforts to attract new investment and development. If the surcharge is not included in ethekwini's tariff structure, the municipal area compares very favourably to the other major metropolitan areas and also compares favourably from the point of view of consumption charges," Matsane says.

Sapoa believes that negotiations with government and organs of state on key policy issues affecting property developers and owners will be critical in improving property development in SA, as there are many and varied stakeholders that are key players in the property sector.

Sapoa says in the past it has engaged constructively with ethekwini Municipality on many issues, trying to foster the best interests of both the municipality and developers, and to find solutions to the challenges of infrastructure investment.

"We are doing so now in relation to the draft development charges policy, and remain willing to do so in the future," says Matsane.

"The decision to pursue litigation against the municipality has, however, been forced upon us by the unlawful nature of the surcharge, its major financial implications for development, and the fact that, contrary to past practice, the municipality has not at any stage consulted or engaged with Sapoa or the broader development community on its imposition."

Call Matsane on 011 883 0679.

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

09 March 2012

Accountant survives Pickvest CEO`s complaint

Accountant survives Pickvest CEO`s complaint

Rikus Myburgh fails to get auditing body to act against nemesis Andre Prakke.

Rikus Myburgh, CEO of controversial syndication promoter Pickvest (formerly PIC Syndications), has failed in his complaint against nemesis Andre Prakke.

Last year Moneyweb reported that Myburgh had laid a complaint against Prakke with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica). See Pickvest CEO lays complaint against Andre Prakke.

Both Myburgh and Prakke are chartered accountants.

Myburgh’s complaint, which can be downloaded here, accused Prakke of causing the loss of income to Pickvest of “hundreds of millions of rands”. Presumably this income would have been earned as profits on the sale of syndicated properties to investors.

Myburgh’s complaint was referred to the regulatory body for auditors, Irba, which takes precedence when a complaint is made against someone who is both a registered accountant and auditor, as Prakke is.

Irba director Jane O’Connor wrote to Myburgh to inform him that Irba’s investigating committee did not believe that his complaint had provided evidence to charge Prakke with bringing the profession into disrepute. O’Connor’s letter can be downloaded here.

O’Connor noted, somewhat ominously for Pickvest auditors, that, on further consideration, the committee had “decided to investigate the auditors in this matter". It is unclear whether O’Connor was referring to Pickvest’s auditors, Calculus, or those of its syndication companies, Van Sitterts.

Auditors of property syndication companies have taken some flak recently for signing off on dubious valuations. See Property Syndicator’s auditor clobbered and Sharemax: Auditor backtracks on opinion.

Myburgh declined to comment on Irba’s finding. He would only say: “I prefer to wait for the outcome of the other case against Prakke currently being investigated by Irba.”

Prakke says he is not aware of any other complaint pending against him.

Prakke tells Moneyweb that he is considering suing Myburgh for defamation. He is also considering laying counter complaints against both Myburgh and Pickvest attorney Eugene Kruger.

“Money has been stolen from investors, finish and klaar,” says Prakke.

What is clear is that about R883m of Pickvest investors’ funds is unaccounted for. This was confirmed by business rescue practitioner Hans Klopper in his rescue plan.

Prakke has been a vocal critic against many dubious schemes including forex schemes Chinza, Prozet and Leaderguard, and property syndication companies Sharemax and Pickvest.

Prakke’s outspoken opinions have earned him many enemies, especially among the professionals associated with property syndication companies, including directors, auditors, lawyers, and dozens of financial advisers.

Pickvest: Billionaire gets five years to repay investors - Property | Moneyweb

Pickvest: Billionaire gets five years to repay investors - Property | Moneyweb

18 000-odd investors may have till December 2016 to see if the rescue plan works.

Investors in Pickvest’s eight syndication schemes may have to wait until December 2016 to find out if a rescue plan has been a success. That’s when apparent property billionaire Nic Georgiou and his associates have promised to repay the R4.6bn that was invested in the schemes.

In December last year, Pickvest’s investors approved a business rescue plan proposed by practitioner Hans Klopper. About 11 000 of Pickvest’s total 18 000-odd investors voted. More than 99% of those who voted were in favour of the rescue plan.

Unlike the plan proposed by Sharemax, Pickvest’s rescue does not require court approval.

In terms of the plan, all the properties that were supposed to be owned by investors will be transferred into a public company called Orthotouch. This company has three directors: Nic Georgiou, Panos Kleovoulou and Jannie Nel. It is envisaged that Klopper and corporate lawyer Connie Myburgh will also be appointed directors.

The vast majority of Orthotouch’s shares will be owned by the NAG Trust, registration number IT4469/09.

Orthotouch has undertaken to pay investors a monthly return starting at 6% per year and increasing by 25 basis points each year. At the end of five years, Orthotouch promises to repay investors their full R4.6bn.

The rescue plan is significantly less attractive than the original terms on which investors bought their shares. For example, investors in the biggest syndication, Highveld 21, which accounts for R1.3bn, were promised a return of 12.5% and a capital “guarantee”. Thus, investors may still be inclined to lay complaints against their financial advisers with the Fais Ombud.

Klopper says that Orthotouch has pledged its shares to the eight syndication companies, which will remain the property of investors. “If there is any breach of the agreement, the syndication companies can exercise their pledge and take control of Orthotouch,” Klopper explains.

But Klopper is also the first to admit that the rescue plan has a significant risk attached to it.

Orthotouch will only be able to pay investors their monthly income if it succeeds in its efforts to borrow money. In a letter to an investor, Klopper explains that Orthotouch was unable to make contact with financial institutions during the holiday period, and this caused a delay in the payment of interest.

Klopper says that Orthotouch needs to borrow money in order to pay investors and to improve its buildings, some of which are in dire need of an upgrade.

As a public company, Orthotouch’s financial statements ought to be open to public scrutiny. However, since it is a newly-formed company, it may take as long as 18 months before investors will be able to see audited financial statements.

Such financial statements, when they are produced, should provide insight into Orthotouch’s ability to meet its promises to investors. If the company appears healthy, investors in the eight Pickvest syndication companies may have a better chance of selling their shares and redeeming their investment early. At present there are virtually no buyers for these shares at any price.

In the past, Pickvest used to assist its investors to sell shares in the second-hand market. There is no reason why this market should not resume. Elderly Pickvest investors may be willing to sell their shares for a substantial discount and let younger speculators – with more time and stronger stomachs – wait until December 2016 to see if Orthotouch can deliver on its promises.

Klopper says that a trading platform “May very well be something that could be considered”.

R4.6bn Pickvest rescue hinges on property billionaire

R4.6bn Pickvest rescue hinges on property billionaire

Rescue practitioner says the choice is simple: Accept Georgiou’s deal, or liquidate.

Pickvest investors stand to lose an estimated R3.8bn, or 81% of their capital, unless they accept a rescue offer proposed by controversial billionaire Nic Georgiou. This is the message from business rescue practitioner Hans Klopper who filed his plan to save the Pickvest property syndications on Wednesday. The rescue plan can be downloaded here.

It was Georgiou who, through his companies, “guaranteed” the generous returns offered by Pickvest syndications. But these guarantees turned out to be worthless when problems started to emerge at the syndication giant earlier this year.

Klopper was appointed to the eight Pickvest schemes in a bid to prevent their liquidation. His appointment provides the syndications with temporary protection from their creditors. This protection gives Klopper time to decide if the syndications can be saved.

In the 62-page rescue document, Klopper effectively tells investors they can choose Georgiou’s offer, or face the liquidation of their investments. Says Klopper: “It is evident that the prospects of the investors recovering their capital without the [Georgiou] offer being accepted are bleak whereas the recovery prospects, should the offer be accepted, are considerably improved.”

Klopper adds that the Georgiou proposal, known as the Orthotouch offer, is the “only realistic opportunity” for investors to recover their capital.

The Orthotouch offer is nothing new. It was proposed to investors in April. The deal would see Orthotouch, a company controlled by Georgiou, buying all of investors’ buildings, and paying for them after five years. They will also earn an income, starting at 6% in year one, increasing to 7% by year five.

However, Klopper has renegotiated the original transaction with clauses and safeguards that he says are to the benefit of Pickvest investors. He says the deal will be underpinned by property worth more than R4bn, and that investors can appoint two directors to the Orthotouch board. Further, Georgiou’s company, Zephan, will transfer buildings worth approximately R1.5bn into Orthotouch for added security. Orthotouch may not lend any money to or invest in third parties while investors remain unpaid.

Klopper says there has been a “groundswell of optimism” from financial advisers, some of whom were steadfastly opposed to the Orthotouch offer in its original form.

Investors are scheduled to meet on December 14, where they can propose amendments to Klopper’s plan and vote to approve it. The plan amounts to the acceptance of the renegotiated Orthotouch offer.
A key feature of the Orthotouch deal is that it is dependent on its acceptance by investors in all eight property syndications. Those in the Highveld 19-22 might feel they have nothing to lose by voting for Georgiou’s proposal. But those invested in the healthiest syndication, Highveld 18, may be less inclined to invest another five years with Georgiou.

Bleak liquidation scenario

Klopper provides investors with estimates of what they can expect to receive in the event of liquidation. It is no surprise that those invested in the older syndications, Highveld 15-18, are expected to fare considerably better than the others. This is because the older syndications actually own property. The others do not.
In April Moneyweb reported that Highveld 18 is the healthiest of these four syndications, and that 16 was in the most trouble. Klopper arrives at the same conclusion in his business rescue plan.

According to Klopper’s estimates, an investor in Highveld 18 might hope to recover 61% of their capital. An investor in Highveld 16 might get 35c. Klopper’s estimates are based on the orderly sale of assets at market value. He estimates that the return could even be 50 percent lower if the assets are sold at auction prices.

For the investors in the newer syndications, Highveld 19-22, the situation is considerably bleaker. These syndications do not own any property. Their only asset is a claim against a company called Bosman & Visser, which has no assets to speak of. For more on this perilous situation, see this article.

Klopper describes the difficulties of pursuing the claim against Bosman & Visser (B&V) in his rescue plan. He says that at least R10m will be needed to sue B&V. In turn, the liquidators of B&V would need money to sue Georgiou’s company Zephan, which has so far failed to deliver investors’ buildings.

Klopper says that Zephan “will undoubtedly defend such action and institute a counterclaim for damages against B&V.”

If the syndications Highveld 19-22 are liquidated, Klopper expects investors to recover no more than R250m out of a total of R3.5bn invested. He also warns that this recovery could take years. Investors in Highveld 21, the largest, are the worst off, with an expected recovery of only 2% of their capital. The best is Highveld 22 with an expected recovery of 17.6%.

08 March 2012

The truth behind my Sharemax divorce - Dawie Roodt

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The truth behind my Sharemax divorce - Dawie Roodt

Relations with directors and lawyer Connie Myburgh became " progressively intolerable".

Dear Mr Cobbett

I refer to your article of March 1st on Moneyweb; “Was Dawie Roodt fired from Sharemax?

It is indeed unfortunate that I am in effect forced to react to allegations made against me in this way. I would also appreciate it if you could carry this reply on your website. Based on your article Mr Myburgh and Ms Haese either said or implied that I was dismissed from the boards of companies related to Sharemax. This is incorrect, the correct facts and version of events are provided below. Please note that I have documentary proof of all the facts that I list hereunder.

As you know I was appointed as an independent director to the Sharemax syndicated and other related companies during 2010 primarily to assist in the restructuring of the Sharemax group of companies. Over the months I became uncomfortable with the manner in which certain issues within the group of companies were handled and early July last year I wrote an email to Judge Hartzenberg, the Chairman, wherein I listed some of my concerns. The very next day, before a scheduled board meeting, the other directors asked to see me.

At this meeting I was presented with two documents. On the one document I tendered my resignation and on the other I was “dismissed”. The “dismissal” document was signed by Dominique Haese, Dirk Koekemoer (both executive directors) and Rudi Badenhorst (a non-executive independent director). Judge Hartzenberg did not sign this document. I was given a choice to sign either of these two documents, which I refused to do. I then left the meeting and told the other directors that I will revert back to them once I have decided what to do.

It is important to note that Mr Koekemoer and Ms Haese did not have the power to dismiss me since they were not directors of the holding company, which had the right to appoint directors. Furthermore, the letter of my “dismissal” was signed by only one director which was entitled thereto, Mr Badenhorst, while the other director, Judge Hartzenberg, did not sign the document. And lastly, no due process in terms of the law was followed before I was “dismissed”; informing me of complaints against me, providing me with an opportunity to react thereto etc.

After this episode I decided to tender my resignation which I did a few days later. Clearly the allegations by Mr Myburgh and allegedly by Ms Haese are incorrect.

I can, however, confirm that I was asked about my resignation by a caller during a radio interview with Magnus Heystek, as you indicated in your article. Just as we were leaving the studio Mr Myburgh called me and threatened to tell Magnus that I was “fired”. I then told Mr Myburgh to tell Mr Heystek himself since he was standing next to me and I then handed my phone to Mr Heystek.

I have not been fired from the Sharemax related companies as alleged. I resigned after relations between me and some of the board members and the lawyer, Mr Myburgh, became progressively intolerable.

Best regards

Dawie Roodt
Chief Economist/Director

Response by the Sharemax board.

Dear Mr. Cobbett,

We note that Mr. Roodt insisted that his communication of 6 March 2012 be published, presumably by yourselves. This position taken by Mr Roodt is noted.

The board reiterates its stance that it keeps information that is confidential, for whatever reason, exactly as such, namely confidential, including Mr Roodt’s relationship with the historical Sharemax Group.

We will not be communicating with Mr Roodt through the media, save to likewise request that this response is published, verbatim, in context and without any alterations, be it as to content and composition.

Contrary to your apparent view, we do not believe that this matter has any relevance whatsoever, and we will not entertain any further communication in this regard.

The board reserves all its rights.


Dominique Haese
Managing & Financial Director
Frontier Asset Management (Pty) Ltd

Was Dawie Roodt fired from Sharemax?

Was Dawie Roodt fired from Sharemax?

War of words erupts over Roodt’s departure from Sharemax’s syndication companies.

Was Efficient Group economist Dawie Roodt fired from the boards of Sharemax’s syndication companies?

Moneyweb Radio presenter Magnus Heystek claims that he was informed by corporate lawyer Connie Myburgh that Roodt was “fired”. Myburgh is the architect of the Sharemax rescue plan, which received court sanction early this year.

This is not the first time Moneyweb has heard of Roodt’s alleged sacking. Dominique Haese, CEO of the Sharemax syndication companies, has also made the allegation, albeit indirectly.

During a recent telephone conversation with this journalist, Haese claimed she was aware of the identity of a director who had allegedly leaked documents to Moneyweb. Haese said that the guilty director had been “fired” from the Sharemax syndication boards, and that “steps are being taken against him”.

Haese did not mention Roodt by name, but he is the only director to have left during the relevant time period.

Roodt was appointed to the boards of the Sharemax syndication companies in November 2010. He apparently resigned in July 2011. At the time, Roodt was hesitant to disclose the reasons for his “resignation”. He would only say: “I don’t think I can make a contribution to the [restructuring] process anymore.” He added: “I think it’s also safe to say there were some disagreements.”

Sharemax later confirmed that Roodt had resigned.

But this media release has allegedly been contradicted by Myburgh in a fiery telephone call which took place last Friday evening, immediately after the broadcast of Moneyweb’s Afrikaans radio programme, RSG Geldsake met Moneyweb.

Presenter Magnus Heystek’s version of events follows:

“Dawie Roodt was on our radio show on Friday to speak about the Budget. During the show, a listener called in and asked why Dawie had resigned from the Sharemax boards. Dawie was diplomatic in his answer.”

Roodt answered in Afrikaans: “I was not happy with how things were done and consequently I decided to end my relationship with Sharemax.”

Readers who wish to listen to the relevant portion of the radio show can download it here.

Heystek continues: “As soon as we walked out of the studio, Dawie’s phone rang. He showed me the screen and I could see it was Connie Myburgh calling.

“Dawie answered his phone, and I could hear that he was having a heated conversation with Myburgh.”

At some point in the conversation Roodt handed the phone to Heystek so he could speak to Myburgh.

Says Heystek: “Myburgh informed me that Roodt had been fired from the boards of the Sharemax syndication companies. He promised to send me a letter that would prove this.”

On the following Tuesday, Heystek called Myburgh to ask whether he would send the promised letter.

“What followed was a verbal tirade,” says Heystek. “Myburgh made a number of allegations against me, Moneyweb, and [forensic accountant and Sharemax critic] André Prakke. He called Dawie a liar and denied saying he had been fired.”

Heystek says he knows Connie Myburgh because they studied at the same university. “Myburgh was also in my office four years ago to discuss a property in Mauritius.”

Roodt declined to comment on allegations that he was fired. Neither Myburgh nor his attorney, Coenie Willemse, responded to a request to comment

Manaka defends controversial government leasing deal

Manaka defends controversial government leasing deal

Political connections were not leveraged to secure inflated prices – CEO Joe Mathebula.

The company involved in a controversial leasing agreement with the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) has defended itself against allegations that it has leveraged political connections to secure inflated prices, saying that rentals are market related.

Manaka Property Investments leases approximately 25 400m² of office space to the DoHA in the Hallmark building in Pretoria’s CBD.

The lease was signed by the Department of Public Works (DPW) which, under its former minister, Gwen Mahlangu Nkabinde, was responsible for authorising the police headquarters leases which resulted in the suspension of police chief Bheki Cele.

Reports released in the media on Monday suggested that the lease agreement was costing the DoHA more than one-and-a-half times what it previously paid for office space.

According to a written reply to a parliamentary question, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said the offices are costing her department around R109/m² per month, reports said.

This would translate into a yearly rental of R33.2m for 25 338m² of office space, as compared to a total of R25.7m for 30 859 m², or R69.40/ m², the department had been paying previously.

However, Joe Mathebula, Manaka Property Investments CEO, claims that Dlamini-Zuma’s costing has not been adjusted to exclude 400 parking bays being rented to the department at R450 per month.

The actual lease agreement, claims Mathebula, is at a rate of R87.76/ m² per month.

“The lease is for eight years as per our 75% BEE status according to Public Works,” he said.
According to the Rode Report, which evaluates average rental prices for properties, an A Grade property in the Pretoria CBD would typically cost around R80/ m² a month, excluding VAT.

A Grade property would be defined as being “generally not older than ten years, unless renovated, in a prime location with high quality finishes”.

Manaka claims to have invested around R70m into refurbishing the Hallmark building prior to leasing it to the DoHA.

Mathebula also contends that the increase in the price of the office space is natural, owing to the fact that the department has relocated its offices from an outlying industrial area to a prime office location in the Pretoria CBD.

“People want to be silly” when comparing rental prices, said Mathebula. “The department was leasing in Silverton which is an industrial space; it’s not even an office space,” he said.

Four of Manaka’s key management staff, including its chairman, CEO, director and a major investor, served as state officials in Limpopo leading to allegations that it had leveraged political connections to secure the lease agreement.

Manaka’s chairman and 50% shareholder, Thaba Mufamadi, is a serving ANC MP, chairman of Parliament's standing committee on finance and the Former Minister of Finance and Economic Development of Limpopo.

The current Limpopo Premier, Cassel Mathale, is registered by the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) as a Manaka director.

Mufamadi and Mathale are currently facing a probe by Parliament’s ethics oversight committee questioning how a company connected to public representatives had come to be awarded the contracts, apparently in breach of treasury regulations.

However, says Jannie Moolman, MD of the Moolman Group which holds a 25% stake in Manaka, and former chairman of the Limpopo tender board, Mufamadi had not held positions in political office at the time when Manaka was founded in 2007.

And, according to Manaka CEO – who is the former CEO of parastatal Trade and Investment Limpopo – Mathale had been asked to resign from Manaka but, owing to a difficulty with processes at CIPC, had not been able to do so.

“When Mufamadi and I decided to form Manaka he was out of political office,” said Moolman.
“When we formed Manaka he was no longer in politics, he was an ANC office bearer… A few years after, we sat with a situation where Mufamadi became a national MP”.

Moolman was unwilling to comment on the parliamentary probe saying simply that “I hope it’s not the case” that Mufamadi has breached and tender regulations in securing the lease for the Hallmark building.

07 March 2012

New properties set to change face of Soweto

New properties set to change face of Soweto

Abulani Heights is set to change the face of the Soweto housing landscape. The groundbreaking new development will have a mall, hospital, theatre, municipal offices, fire station and filling stations.

A view of the complex.

The three-storey blocks of flats are meant for people who earn too much to qualify for a subsidy and too little to buy a house.

Project funders International Housing Solutions (IHS) released findings of research conducted by property economist and UCT associate professor Francois Viruly that showed a high level of satisfaction among occupants of the new housing product.

Soula Proxenos, managing partner of IHS, said affordable housing was aimed at closing a huge gap in housing that affected "people who can afford to pay but have nothing suitable for them in the market".

She said they were not only building affordable homes, but were taking into consideration things such as locations close to residents' workplaces, amenities and access to transport routes.

"The Jabulani project is ideally located near a mall and a theatre as well as other facilities. We also have apartments in Protea Glen that are also close to public transport routes, schools and shops," she said.
"Our projects are also for people who love living in Soweto, but would still want a feeling similar to those of upmarket apartments in the city close to amenities and also remain close to their families in the township. "We got the professor (Viruly) to conduct research recently to test if we were indeed meeting every aspect of what will satisfy residents, developers as well as our investors."

Viruly said his research also looked at how many jobs were created through affordable housing projects.
The IHS said its products were designed to "ensure healthy, integrated communities rather than just to provide dwellings".

The complex was designed in a modern style with bold stairwells in red.

Viruly's research showed that "over 70 percent of respondents said by moving into the these houses they become healthier".

He said: "Living in a decent and well-located house means people are healthier.
"We were testing the issue of 'housing beyond just a shelter' and found out that access to amenities like schools is critical."

Jabulani Heights is expected to yield 4 200 units of a combination of rental and ownership stock selling from R242 000 for a single-bedroomed bachelor flat to R526 000 for 86m threebedroomed units.

Down the road from Jabulani Mall, 500 new units of neat three-storey blocks of RDP and subsidised rental units are being built. Construction of a 300-bed Jabulani-Zola Hospital in front of the R320 million Jabulani Mall is almost complete. On the other side of the mall, the R150m colourful Soweto Theatre is nearing completion. All these are expected to form a new CBD for Soweto in Jabulani.

The Star

06 March 2012

SA mayors urged to buy up city land

SA mayors urged to buy up city land

The government must intervene radically in the ownership of land around South African cities to ensure optimum economic growth, the country's top mayors were told during a course at the weekend.

Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of the Colombian capital, Bogotá, said the quality of urban life was the most important determinant of modern economic growth and that the leaders of South African cities should decide what kind of cities they wanted.

While land and then capital were initially regarded as the most important factors in economic growth, now it was people, Peñalosa told the mayors and their management teams. "How do you ensure that the best South Africans stay in South Africa and don't go to London or New York? By making it attractive."

Peñalosa and his successor are credited by many with turning one of the world's most violent and corrupt capitals into a peaceful and vibrant city in less than 10 years.

Peñalosa spoke at a unique course called "Leadership in local government: building globally competitive cities".

Executive mayors in attendance during the first two days of the course at the weekend included Zukiswa Ncitha of Buffalo City, Patricia de Lille of Cape Town, Mondli Gungubele of Ekurhuleni, Parks Tau of Johannesburg; Zanoxolo Wayile of Nelson Mandela Bay and Kgosientso Ramokgopa of Tshwane.

The cities' management teams are attending the full eight-day course, run by UCT and the World Bank Institute and sponsored by the Treasury and the SA Local Government Association.

The theme of the first day of the programme, which Peñalosa addressed, was "Rapid reform is necessary". That necessity, as he sees it, is based on the fact that South Africa is currently 62 percent urbanised and is likely to experience a rapid increase in urban population in the coming years.

"In South America, where there is 90 percent urbanisation, the population of the cities increased by 300 percent when the urbanisation rate increased from 62 percent to 85 percent... what's happening in South Africa now, happened in South America years ago."

A critical factor determining the success of the urbanisation process would be the availability of land around the growing cities. "If you don't deal with this issue, you won't be able to solve the housing problem."

The lack of available land was resulting in informal developments being established in "very bad locations".

Peñalosa said that the market economy, in the case of land around growing cities, did not work because the supply of land could not be increased to match the increased demand. "This means that rich land owners become richer... just because cities are growing."

He said that the government had to buy out these landowners either voluntarily or compulsorily and create a land bank.

The programme is the second to be convened by UCT's Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice, which aims to promote strategic leadership in government and places a strong emphasis on accountability in governance.

The seminar will see the introduction of the Treasury's Cities Support Programme, which aims to support and strengthen service delivery at municipal level.

Business Report

Residential rental market set to remain weak - FNB

Residential rental market set to remain weak - FNB

The residential buy-to-let and rental markets remain weak and may remain so for some time because of the crowding-out effect of the myriad other consumer costs, according to FNB.

However, John Loos, a household and property sector analyst at FNB, said a weak residential market might have been key in preventing interest rates rising last year because of the large weighting of rentals in the consumer price index (CPI).

"Should the rental market have strengthened more significantly in 2011 at a time when other components of the CPI were rising sharply, overall consumer price inflation may have risen far higher above the 6 percent upper target limit and that may just have been the catalyst for the Reserve Bank to start hiking interest rates."
Loos added that interest rate hikes appeared to have been significantly delayed and residential buying demand had continued to grow gradually.

He expected the rental market to pick up from the start of expected interest rate hikes around 2014. Increases in rates would be a catalyst for a stronger rental market as many aspirant first-time buyers would delay buying a home and rent for longer.

Loos said weak buy-to-let buying did lay the foundation for the ultimate recovery of the rental market by constraining supply, which would gradually set the basis for a future shortage leading to stronger rental inflation.

However, Loos said it appeared that significant strengthening in the rental market might be some way off, with credit dependent first-time home buyers flocking into the home buying market in greater numbers as opposed to renting.

Loos said the percentage of residential buyers who were purchasing properties to let was believed to have remained fairly weak based on the results of FNB's fourth-quarter estate agent survey.

He said agents surveyed estimated about 8 percent of sales were to buy-to-let buyers, virtually unchanged from the previous three quarters and still a far cry from the almost 25 percent recorded in 2004.

Loos attributed the weakness in the buy-to-let market to the current significant household sector pressure.
The sources of this pressure had been a mediocre economic performance despite some recent improvement, along with sharp increases in the cost of high-frequency consumer purchases.

"Although price inflation for petrol and food are starting to turn for the better, their inflation rates remain very high and these highly essential items do exert a significant degree of financial pressure.

"But more significant in limiting the appeal of owning a second home is arguably the ongoing increases in municipal rates while utilities tariffs, most notably in the area of electricity, are skyrocketing."

Loos said while utilities tariffs were generally passed on to the tenant in a rental property, the general levels of financial pressure in recent years must often have meant the negative impact on tenants of these tariffs and other CPI inflation items limited the "pricing power" of landlords in hiking rentals.

Business Report

05 March 2012

Hope for lower income property buyers?

Hope for lower income property buyers?

Property ownership has been, and continues to be a vital aspect of life in South Africa - especially for the lower income groups.

This is plain to see from the amount of protests regarding housing and the incredible demand for RDP homes. The demand for property has gone un-sated mainly due to the fact that it is incredibly difficult for this group to obtain home loans.

While the State of the Nation Address is a key, yearly moment of import for South African politics, it is doubtful that those in the residential property market trade expected any surprises. Predictably the key topics of job creation and infrastructure development took precedence but, there was also significant announcement regarding the purchasing of property.

The President quoted from a letter written by Mzukisi Mali - a public servant in the Grahamstown region. Mr Mali, it turns out, is in the unenviable position, which thousands of South Africans share, of being too well off to qualify for an RDP house but, too risky a proposition for a bank to grant him a home loan. This situation is all too common and very difficult to resolve on a personal level.

In 2010 government announced the creation of a one billion Rand guarantee fund with which it hoped to enable citizens to obtain home loans. Zuma indicated that; "We are pleased to report that this fund will start its operations in April, managed by the National Housing Finance Corporation."

It is important to note that there will now be two financial schemes in play: the national housing-guarantee scheme - of R1 billion - and the housing subsidy for the gap market which will enable prospective home owners earning between R3,500 and R15,000 to procure a subsidy of up to R85 000 from their respective provincial housing departments.

"The roll out of this fund could change the property landscape significantly in that many more people will now be able to afford purchasing a home as opposed to renting a property" says Jan le Roux, CEO of Leapfrog Property Group.

Rudi Botha, CEO of leading mortgage originator Betterbond, says: "We are obviously pleased at the news that the long-awaited housing guarantee scheme will start to be implemented soon - although there is some doubt about whether it will be finalised by April. This scheme will basically subsidise the premium payable by the borrower for an insurance policy that protects a bank against loss if the borrower defaults on a home loan."

South Africa is not the first nation to toy with the idea of assisting buyers in purchasing their first homes. The Dutch have piloted a Home Ownership Guarantee Fund with great success. In 2002 over a third of Dutch mortgages with a National Mortgage Guarantee from the Fund.

According to the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, International Housing Unit [link: www.vrom.nl], the fund guarantees: "the lender repayment of the mortgage debt if the buyer can no longer fulfil his obligations. Any residual debt after compulsory sale will in principle be waived and will be borne by the fund." The amount required is born in half by the government and in half by the local authorities should the principal debtor's funds be insufficient to cover the loan.

As a result of this scheme, Dutch home buyers - from lower income groups - have found that financial institutions are more amenable to loaning money and, that they set a marginally lower rate of interest. There are strict requirements: the property (to be purchased) must be below a certain amount and the mortgage costs may not be too high in relation to the applicant's income.

"Should the South African guarantee scheme come into play in 2012, international evidence indicates that it will do much to encourage banks to lend money, thereby placing lower income buyers into their first homes - a move that is long overdue", says le Roux.

Leapfrom Press Release

Carlos Slim tops the Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Carlos Slim tops the Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, didn’t make the cut.

Carlos Slim, the telecommunications tycoon who controls Mexico’s America Movil SAB, is the richest person on Earth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 20 wealthiest individuals.

The 72-year-old’s net worth fell $478.4 million in a day to $68.5 billion as of the close of markets on March 2, as U.S. moguls Bill Gates and Warren Buffett placed second and third on the list compiled by Bloomberg News. Brazil’s Eike Batista, who ranks 10th, still covets the top spot after vowing a year ago that he’d become the world’s wealthiest man by 2015.

“I’m competitive,” Batista, who trails Slim by almost $39 billion, said in a March 2 telephone interview from Rio de Janeiro. “It’s Brazil’s time to be No. 1. Brazilians have always admired the American dream. What’s happening in Brazil is the Brazilian dream and I happen to be the example.”

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index takes measure of the world’s wealthiest people based on market and economic changes and Bloomberg News reporting. Each net worth figure is updated every business day at 5:30 p.m. in New York. The valuations are listed in U.S. dollars.

Today’s ranking was published with the release of new billionaires profile pages in the Bloomberg Professional service. The profiles feature a transparent analysis of how each billionaire’s fortune was calculated.

Slim’s fortune has increased 11 percent this year, according to the index. A spokesman for Slim didn’t immediately return a telephone request for comment.

Gates, Buffett

Gates, 56, co-founder of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) in Redmond, Washington, is worth $62.4 billion, down $102.1 million on March 2 and up 11 percent year to date.

The fortune of Buffett, 81, chairman of Omaha, Nebraska- based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/B), declined $336.9 million to $43.8 billion on March 2 and is up 2.4 percent in 2012. Almost all of Buffett’s wealth is held in Berkshire Hathaway, the publicly traded holding company he has run since 1965.

The combined net worth of the 20 richest people is $676.8 billion. Nine are Americans, including three from the family of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)

Number seven is Larry Ellison, 67, chief executive officer of Redwood City, California-basedOracle Corp. (ORCL), the world’s third-largest software maker after Microsoft and SAP AG. (SAP) His $38 billion fortune puts him $4 billion ahead of brothers Charles and David Koch, who each own 42 percent of Koch Industries Inc., one of the biggest closely held companies in the world by revenue. Charles, 76, and David, 71, control the Wichita, Kansas, refiner and chemical maker.

Batista, 55, whose investments range from iron ore to coal, is worth $29.8 billion, up $133.9 million on March 2. His fortune has grown 32 percent this year, the most on the list.

The House Wins

Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who owns 47 percent of Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS), which operates resorts in Macau and Las Vegas, is number 13 with $25.7 billion. Adelson, 78, and his family have pledged at least $10 million to a super-PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, a Republican presidential candidate.

Liliane Bettencourt, 89, who with her family owns 31 percent of Paris-based cosmetics company L’Oreal SA (OR), is last on the ranking. Bettencourt was the subject of an international scandal in 2007 when her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, filed a lawsuit accusing a family friend, photographer Francois- Marie Banier, of exploiting her mother’s frail state. Evidence later revealed Bettencourt had granted more than $1 billion in cash and gifts to Banier. In October, Meyers and two grandsons became guardians of the clan’s $22.4 billion fortune.

Diluting Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg, the 27-year-old founder of Facebook Inc. (FB), the world’s largest social-networking company, didn’t make the cut. Based on a roughly $100 billion valuation the Menlo Park, California-based company has been trading at in the private market, Zuckerberg’s stake may be worth $21 billion, or about 25 percent less than previous estimates, once Facebook holds its initial public offering.

The reason: Facebook will issue more than 500 million shares of its Class B stock at the offering, diluting Zuckerberg’s ownership to 21 percent after he exercises 120 million options and sells about 42 million shares to cover the tax bill associated with the gain from those options.

Sweden’s Ingvar Kamprad is the richest European, according to the index, ranking fourth globally with a $42.5 billion net worth. Kamprad, 85, controls Ikea Group, the world’s largest furniture retailer, through a series of trusts and foundations he asserts he doesn’t own.

Luxury Goods

Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC), places fifth. The majority of Arnault’s $42.3 billion comes from his stake in Paris-based LVMH, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods. Arnault, 63, controls about 46 percent of LVMH’s outstanding stock through his family group, according to the company’s latest annual report.

Amancio Ortega, whose publicly traded Inditex SA (ITX) owns the Zara clothing chain, is Spain’s wealthiest individual and sixth in the world with a $38.8 billion fortune. Ortega, 75, has invested dividends from Arteixo-based Inditex into a real estate portfolio that owns office and retail properties in the U.S. and Europe.

No Russians appear in the index as falling metals prices hurt the fortunes of many of the richest oligarchs. Alisher Usmanov, 58, the Muscovite who controls the Metalloinvest metals and mining company and Digital Sky Technologies, which currently owns 5.5 percent of Facebook, is Russia’s wealthiest person thanks to a $20.1 billion fortune.

Asia’s Wealthiest

Mukesh Ambani, 54, leads Asians with a net worth of $26.8 billion, down $185.4 million in a day. His fortune is up 25 percent this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as his shares in India’s top company by market value, Mumbai-based Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), have risen 17 percent.

Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, nicknamed “Superman” by the local media for his investing prowess, ranks second in the region, with $25.8 billion. Li, 83, owns large stakes in Hong Kong-based property developer Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. (1), Hong Kong shipping and ports operator Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (13) and Husky Energy Inc. (HSE), the Calgary-based energy company.

Lakshmi Mittal, the India-born chairman of ArcelorMittal (MT), the world’s biggest steelmaker, is the third-richest Asian, with holdings valued at $23.6 billion. In addition to his ArcelorMittal stake, the 61-year-old London resident owns hundreds of millions of dollars in U.K. real estate.

On the rise: Gina Rinehart, the Australian mining heiress who is worth $20.4 billion. Rinehart, 58, the daughter of the man who discovered the mines that made Australia the world’s biggest iron ore exporter, inherited perpetual royalty rights to some of Rio Tinto Ltd. (RIO)’s Hamersley mines in addition to other thermal and iron-ore deposits throughout the country.

Soaring demand for coal and iron ore from China have made Rinehart’s assets attractive to acquisitive industrial companies. In separate deals in the past year, steelmakers Posco andGVK Power & Infrasture Ltd. (GVKP) agreed to pay a combined $2.9 billion for pieces of Rinehart’s empire.


01 March 2012

Tshwane in bid to enforce use of pre-paid meters

Tshwane in bid to enforce use of pre-paid meters

The Tshwane Metro Council is looking at passing a by-law compelling households to have pre-paid meters within three years to improve its revenue collection.

Agreeing on a three-year prepayment roll-out strategy at the monthly meeting, executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said the council should pass a by-law compelling every household to be have pre-paid meters.

He said the debt for municipal services (water, electricity and rubbish removal) stood at R3.9 billion.

"At the current rate the municipality is unsustainable. The installation of pre-paid meters will alleviate this problem," said Ramokgopa.

According to the municipality, the credit control measures are not yielding the results hoped for and the debt is increasing while projected revenue is dropping.

If the status quo remains, the projected revenue will decrease beyond the municipality's sustainability.

The council agreed that all accounts exceeding R3 000 over 60 days be changed to pre-paid meters and that pre-paid meters be compulsory for new electricity accounts for rented premises and residential dwellings with high tenant turnover.

All accounts where a tenant's premises cannot be accessed for more than two months or where electricity meters are installed

Tshould be placed on the pre-paid meter system.

Tenders for meter installation have been invited with five service providers, and a third-party vendor tender is in place for three years for the extended reselling of electricity at retail merchants, including petrol stations and spaza shops.

DA councillor Professor Duncan Baker said the rolling out of prepayment electricity was a welcome development.

He said: "Following problems with getting clarification as to (their) electricity accounts, many residents have indicated an interest in using such meters.

"The reasons include the avoidance of electricity account queries, as well as allowing them to monitor their usage."

Baker said the municipality should start a programme to roll out devices that can cut the power to geysers remotely.

"The older example is the ripple relay system.

"Today, this can be done effectively using radio transmitters and receivers. Blocks of users could have the geysers turned off selectively."

Baker urged the municipality to investigate this option, "before Eskom starts to charge exorbitant rates whenever our peak demands exceed a certain level".

"With this in mind, we are reminded that Eskom, those 'princes of darkness', are again warning of power cuts this winter.

"I urge the council to take the matter of demand side management seriously."