Liberty Properties aims for the top

Posted On Wednesday, 30 April 2008 02:00 Published by Commercial Property News
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New CEO Samuel Ogbu aims to help Liberty Properties, the property arm of Liberty Life, regain its position as a leading player in the property industry.

Samuel OgbuLiberty Properties is expecting to spend R3,5bn this year upgrading its portfolio, acquisitions and developments.

As the 2010 Soccer World Cup looms with increasing numbers of tourists visiting SA, the company will also be looking to expand its hotel portfolio.

The company, which manages an R18m property portfolio including Sandton City, has been relatively quiet in the past five years, essentially just managing its property portfolio and selling properties. Its portfolio has been reduced from 128 properties to 32. But the focus of the group has changed.

Ogbu says: “We see great opportunity so we are moving from consolidation to a growth phase, redeveloping and extending a number of assets as well as looking to buy more.

“Our focus remains in retail property, but increasingly we are looking at mixed developments and hotels,” he says.

Liberty Properties has the largest number of hotel rooms in the country with almost 7000 rooms, either owning its hotels 100% or holding them in partnership with Southern Sun.

Among these hotels are the Sandton Sun and Sandton Intercontinental Hotel, which are linked to Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square.

“We have had a very successful relationship with Southern Sun, which operates the hotels for us. We are also going to be building more hotels.”

Ogbu was appointed CEO of a realigned property business in December. He has a business background, having headed large corporate business and corporate distribution for Old Mutual Corporate before taking up his new position.

The restructured Liberty Properties now consists of three distinct units to run the property business on behalf of Liberty Life and its policy holders.

“Previously we were a monolithic property company focused on the management of properties. We have just completed a restructure into three areas.”

These include a property management business to manage the existing portfolio called Liberty Properties Management Company, a development arm called Liberty Properties Development Company, and a division to perform the asset management function.

Roger Corlett is MD of Liberty Properties Management Company, and Caswell Rampheri is MD of Liberty Properties Development Company. Kgaogelo Mamabolo will head the asset management division.

Ogbu says these new structures will provide Liberty Properties with the opportunity to conduct third-party business.

He says this primarily retail property-focused business faces challenges because of the drop in retail spending by consumers and the electricity supply crisis, which threatens trading.

“But we’re long-term players. We do see the difficulties, but we work with our tenants to minimise the impact of those difficulties. We are good at managing large prime retail.

“We also manage the tenant mix very carefully so we are able to prosper even when times are difficult. We have long waiting lists of tenants wanting to come into our properties.”

The group’s redevelopment, development and extensions pipeline is massive.

Ogbu says the Liberty Promenade shopping centre in Mitchells Plain is being expanded by 30000m² to 83000m² at an investment cost of R329m.

Meanwhile, its Eastgate Shopping Centre in Johannesburg will see an expansion of 12000m², bringing the gross rentable area to 126017m² at an investment cost of R350m.

A new regional head office and hotel development in Umhlanga will cover 11000m² at an investment cost of R260m.

Liberty Midlands Mall in Pietermaritzburg is expanding by 30000m² and will be incorporating a new hotel, as well as retail, bringing gross rentable area to more than 80000m²

Sandton City, which is 163953m² if the office towers are included, will also be undergoing a facelift in the not too distant future.

Ogbu says Liberty Properties has “big plans” to make over Sandton City, which is more than 30 years old.

Last modified on Friday, 24 May 2013 22:14

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