LLR CEO expresses confidence in local property market
Real estate giant’s Letlole La Rona (LLR) has expressed confidence in the local property market amid fears it is becoming saturated.
Speaking to Voice Money this week, the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chikuni Shenjere-Mutiswa insisted there was still potential for growth in the market, in particular in the retail sub-sector.
Early last year, LLR sold the four hotels it owned to Cresta Marakanelo, which had previously been leasing the properties.
While this impacted on LLR’s portfolio diversity, Mutiswa maintains the business is now ‘back on track’.
Appointed to the role of CEO in May 2018, Mutiswa’s first assignment was to oversee the sale of the hotels.
Having successfully achieved this, his focus is now on growing the company above the usual practice of simply ‘delivering dividends’.
“We have managed to sell the hotels and what has now happened is that we decided to do two things. The first is to double down on the industrial property space, which is a our biggest competitive advantage. We are the largest institutional industrial investor here in Botswana,” stressed the CEO.
Secondly, Mutiswa says LLR will target the retail space, a strategy they have already started with the recent acquisition of Watershed Mall in Mahalapye.
“We are involved in developments including one retail mall here in Gaborone and we will be announcing it shortly. Previously our only retail exposure was the Blue Jacket Street in Francistown where we had a one-third partnership.”
Mutiswa further explained that as the economy develops, the key component of Botswana’s GDP comes from consumers.
“As such, there is still huge potential in the retail space!” he reiterated, downplaying the notion the country has more shopping malls than it needs.
“If you are a property investor and you stay by the sidelines and say Botswana right now is saturated in terms of the retail space, you will miss the boat because 10 years back this was also the belief.”
Additionally, Mutiswa revealed LLR plan to quit the residential space imminently.
“We have one residential unit. It consists of 42 apartments and we find that it is management intensive. That asset is valued at P43 million out of the balance sheet right now of P1 billion, which is around four percent of the total portfolio.”
Although insignificant, in terms of administration Mutiswa says the property takes up around 50 percent of the company’s time.
“It is likely we will be looking to dispose of that particular asset and we do not expect to venture back into the residential market,” stated Mutiswa, adding LLR will remain focused on industrial, retail and office space.
In relation to office space, he says they will concentrate on the new Gaborone Central Business District (CBD) ‘as that is where most businesses are moving to’.
As LLR’s portfolio continues to grow locally, Mutiswa says the organisation is now considering investment opportunities outside the country.
“If you look at the other five listed property companies, it is only LLR which doesn’t have regional exposure.”
He points out the company has made significant inroads and the expectation is to close a regional expansion transaction during the course of this year.
“It has taken a bit longer than we would have liked. In a way that is positive because in any investment, what determines the profit or return on investment is not the quality of the asset or income you get from that asset, it is the price at which you got it!” he noted.
According to Mutiswa, the company is looking at markets such as South Africa, Namibia and Zambia.
A teacher on a disc
EU-Pick Tutorial to revolutionise distance learning
At a time when governments across the world have suspended school terms in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus, the biggest challenge faced by the education sector is how to ensure learning continues outside the classroom.
Three gentlemen from Francistown may just have the answer.
Lawrence Khuwa and Vincent Sebele of EU-Pick Tutorial are spearheading distance learning through videos, audio and using indigenous languages.
In an interview with Voice Money, Khuwa revealed they decided to translate learning materials first to Setswana after realising many students fail primarily because they do not understand due to the language used during lessons.
“In January we distributed tutorial videos in secondary schools around Francistown,” he said, adding this was done free of charge.
Khuwa said they have approached more schools to start uploading the videos, which can then be shared with students using other mediums such as USB, compact discs and even audio.
“It has to be something kids can use at home, because we do understand that not everyone has access to a computer. We also have the audio version of the tutorial material for students to listen to during their spare time,” he said.
“We’ve tested these videos and our students all posted impressive results,” declared Khuwa, revealing they also plan to roll out the programme to primary schools imminently.
The third piece of this jigsaw is Dr Tampiwa Chebani of Tach Multimedia who explained the project’s overall target is to improve results in both junior and senior secondary schools which have been on a downward spiral in recent years.
“We’re also looking at the modern student and are trying by all means to use gadgets that they are accustomed to!”
Dr Chebani noted that the 21st century learner is used to consuming content through audios and videos via the many gadgets available in the market.
“Most don’t really want to sit in class and listen to a teacher and we thought the use of videos would be more appealing and fun,” he added.
He further said since they use indigenous languages it also enhances learning and makes it easier for parents to be more involved in their children’s schoolwork.
“Through these videos we’re able to do remote tutoring for kids living in far places. It is also ideal for parents who can’t afford tutorial fees,” he said.
The determined trio further told Voice Money that they intend to approach private companies and propose a partnership or collaboration in an effort to increase EU-Pick Tutorial’s reach.
Currently the learning materials, which focus on areas that historically students have struggled in, are only available in Setswana but they plan to release a Kalanga version soon.
Payless to pay more!
Choppies drag Payless owner to court over P121 million debt
Choppies, through its distribution centre, has dragged Payless supermarket’s majority shareholder, Saleem Malique to court over unpaid debts.
Choppies Distribution Centre (CDC) had loaned an amount of P121 048 424.78 to Payless supermarkets. Indeed, in total, the doomed enterprise owes suppliers P1.3 billion.
It has now been deemed through the Companies Act that Payless is unable to pay the money owed to CDC.
In a recently released circular to its shareholders, Choppies confirmed it has been unable to recover the P121 million debt.
On the 13th of March this year, the High Court granted a provisional order for the winding up of Payless supermarkets and the appointment of a provisional liquidator.
A final order of the liquidation is expected to be made on 27 April 2020.
During the liquidation process, the liquidator will, as directed by the High Court, evaluate the prospects of selling the business as a whole or individually.
As a secured creditor, Choppies has told shareholders that CDC may, if appropriate, support the provisional liquidator in operating the business in order to enable sale of the business or businesses.
Now Choppies has taken Malique, who holds a 90 percent shareholding in Payless Supermarkets, to court after he failed to execute a deed of suretyship which he guaranteed as a surety, guarantor and co-principal debtor.
It is said Malique had committed to take responsibility for Payless supermarkets obligations to CDC, ceding and pledging his Payless shares.
After being issued with demand by CDC for payment of the outstanding P121 million, Malique reportedly failed to effect payment of such amount.
As a result, Choppies through its distribution centre, approached the courts of laws seeking judgment against Malique for the full payment of the debt as well as interest.
The company also wants Malique’s Payless shares to be attached. He was served with summons on 3 March.