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Sapoa chief looks for green pastures

Posted On Wednesday, 25 May 2005 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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The South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa) will be getting a new leader in a few months - outgoing Sapoa chief executive Brian Kirchmann is looking for new pastures in the property industry

Sapoa CEO Neil GopalLINDSAY WILLIAMS: It must be the top of the market - you’re leaving!

BRIAN KIRCHMANN: They say that you should leave when you’re riding high - so perhaps that’s what I’m doing!

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: Before we get into the state of the industry at the moment, can you tell us a bit about Sapoa and its role in the South African property market?

BRIAN KIRCHMANN: Sapoa was started some years ago - in 1966 - as a small pressure group to fight the Rent Control Act. From there it has actually diversified quite dramatically, and now it really the voice of commercial property, and so it participates - in liaison with government - at all levels. It produces educational programmes, publications, arranges conventions, networking events - so generally it’s a kind of marketing services arm for the commercial property industry.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: You’ve had a recent convention, what came out of that?

BRIAN KIRCHMANN: It was a very good convention - we had over 1,000 delegates there, and there were a number of issues that came up - enhancing the cities, the listed sector, the retail sector, transformation obviously played a big part. In general terms the delegates really enjoyed the conference - it dealt with subjects that are very topical, and it showed where the market is at the moment. The market is on a high - over the last year the performances of all sectors has been exceptionally good.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: Talking about the listed sector - what’s the general feeling? I’ve spoken to a couple of people - Marriott recently suggested that perhaps we’re getting close to the peak - is that the feeling that came out of the conference?

BRIAN KIRCHMANN: It’s difficult to say. Because we had such good growth last year people are always a bit nervous, saying how much more can it grow! Can it really sustain the high? That was the question asked at the convention. I think in certain sectors the high will be sustained, and maintained. The industrial sector has been a bit of a Cinderella sector of our industry for a number of years - I think there’s just such a shortage of good industrial property that the developers are seeing that as the way to go, that there’s still some meat on that bone. The retail sector - we always think we’re at the top of retail, but somehow retail seems to grow! If anything, perhaps the office sector is at the lower end of the scale with regards to the other ones - but it has performed well over the past year.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: Would it be fair to say that there’s a lack of good quality industrial space? You say the supply side is not there - is the demand side there?

BRIAN KIRCHMANN: I think yes, the demand side is definitely there - I think there is a growing demand, and we’re hoping that the overseas markets will come in. I believe that the prices of property - either to develop or to buy - is still behind world prices. We’ve gone overseas on a number of occasions to interest the investors to come into South Africa. They’ve invested very heavily in residential, and they’ve now started investing in industrial and commercial property.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: What about consolidation in the industry? Were there a lot of “behind closed doors meetings” at the convention - people trying to get together? Do you think that’s going to be a continuing trend?

BRIAN KIRCHMANN: I think what’s happened is that the listed sector has grown, and it’s opened up to the general public. At one time there were these smaller syndicates starting - I think there are still people getting together - but I think it’s pretty open, and I think easy for the man in the street to invest in property. He doesn’t have to go into a little syndicate - he can go into a responsible property loan stock company, or property unit trust, and he can actually invest in property. He doesn’t have to invest hundreds of thousands - or millions of rands. He can invest a small amount of money and still get his return, and he can obviously take it out as and when he needs to.

LINDSAY WILLIAMS: You’re leaving Sapoa at such a buoyant time in the property industry - where are you going?

BRIAN KIRCHMANN: I haven’t any fixed plans yet. I’m having a good look around. I’ve got another three months before I’ll be handing over to Neil Gopal. I’m really passionate about the industry, and I would really not like to leave the industry. I’ve made many friends - hopefully we will continue that relationship.

Last modified on Saturday, 07 June 2014 18:22

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