‘You will still see us, and you will still experience what we do in our assets and some of the good things that we bring to market’: CEO Amelia Beattie.
You can also listen to this podcast on iono.fm here.
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Welcome to the latest episode of The Property Pod, a weekly podcast show on Moneyweb where we gain insider insights from leading executives, analysts, developers and entrepreneurs in South Africa’s expansive property industry.
Real estate investment trust (Reit) Liberty Two Degrees (L2D) delisted from the JSE last week following majority shareholder Liberty Group’s buyout deal of minorities being finalised. L2D is effectively owned by banking giant Standard Bank Group now, as Liberty Group is one of the bank’s subsidiaries.
On this week’s podcast, L2D CEO Amelia Beattie speaks about what’s next for the group now that it has exited the JSE after almost seven years of trading on the bourse. Beattie is the first guest to have been on this special Moneyweb podcast twice. The last time we chatted was back in 2021, just as the Covid lockdowns were easing.
Highlights of her latest interview appear below. You can also listen to the full podcast above or download it from iono, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
What happens now that L2D has been officially delisted from the JSE? The group’s year-end is in December, so does that mean there won’t be any release of full-year results publicly now?
“That’s correct … we delisted last week after nearly seven years of being listed, and we are now fully integrated and fully held by the Standard Bank Group, so our results will be going into the group’s results, and we won’t be doing our own public results …”
“It [Standard Bank] is a big group and as a business [L2D] we have really been very transparent in the information that we have shared with the market.”
“Our information also is a benchmark in the property industry, so we will find a different way to still share this with the market, because I think it’s important that the property portfolio that we have continues to lead the way in the South African real estate market.”
“We are a business line in the Investments and Asset Management business unit, which is one of the four business units in the Standard Bank Group.”
“So we have our rightful place in the group and the portfolio that we run we will continue, just as it did while we were listed, and the information will find its way into the industry benchmarks because I think it is important.”
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You have been CEO of Liberty Two Degrees since it was listed back in December 2016. That was at the peak of the listed property boom as the sector was actually trading at a premium back then – not [at] the huge discounts you see with some counters currently. Can you share some of your highlights and challenges during the seven years? Covid was almost smack-bang in the middle.
“Seven years have gone so quickly. They say short cycles are seven years long, so I’ve had the privilege to list this company, to list it again as a corporate Reit in 2018 out of the old trust structure, and now to delist it. So it’s almost a full circle for us as a team.”
“I think that there were so many highlights – and we reflected on that last week as we were having our delisting. There’s so much to be grateful for. This industry offers us so many opportunities to do really great things. You’ve often heard me say that I don’t have a passion for property only because of the bricks and mortar and the investment returns, but really for the difference that it makes to people’s lives and the communities that it serves.”
“Those were my biggest highlights – to have been able to make a difference in the communities in which we operate.”
“Covid was a huge challenge, but it was also a privilege for us to keep our malls full during that time. We saw a number of tenants stay with us, we held their hands, and our vacancies really through this entire period stayed so low – and [that’s] something we are really proud of.”
“The highlights are so many. The trading environments that we created are really heartwarming to see, when people just keep on coming back and really love these environments that we work in. Also to have brought some new developments to the market has been interesting.”
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“And then last weekend to be recognised by the Sunday Times in the Top 100 companies over five years having had a positive return … that was kind of a real highlight to bow out of the JSE [on].”
Will L2D still operate as a Reit in this current form?
“L2D can’t be a Reit because the unlisted [Reit] legislation has not [been] promulgated or has not come through in South Africa as yet. A Reit has to be listed with more than one shareholder, and we clearly now only have one shareholder, so we won’t be a Reit.”
“But we will remain committed and active in the South African property industry. We are still here; we still play a key part in what we as a country have to offer in terms of real estate.
“So you will still see us, and you will still experience what we do in our assets and some of the good things that we bring to market.”
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And for you personally, will you remain L2D CEO in 2024?
“Yes, I’ll remain the CEO of L2D. I’m extremely proud of leading this company, but I’m equally proud of being part of the Standard Bank Group.”
“It’s a company that has Africa as a home, and I’m passionate about our country and about the continent. I will try to continue to make a difference in the property industry, but also inside the group.”
How is trade doing, as L2D has a largely retail portfolio of iconic assets like Sandton City, Eastgate, and even a stake in Melrose Arch?
“We have really extraordinary assets. The trading in our assets is doing so well, and it’s wonderful to see how people have returned. People come where they can find everything under one roof.”
“We’ve spoken many times over the last couple of years about ‘super regionals’ and whether they are dead, and I think Sandton City, Eastgate and our two regional malls really illustrate that retail is very much alive.”
“And retail [assets] like ours, which are good quality and iconic – and differentiated by the customer experiences that we offer – are really very much alive and will be contributing to the economy for many years to come.”
“Also, our hotels have recovered unbelievably well, and trading above where they used to previously, as well as the convention centre. We are really proud of these assets. My team has done an incredible job, and this is really their testament to what can be done in a retail environment.”
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Since it’s November, it goes without saying it’s Black Friday month. Are you ready for Black Friday and the festive season’s peak trading?
“We are so ready for Black Friday, and so ready for the festive season. Black Friday also comes with amazing deals for customers and, as last year, we have a number of places in our mall in Sandton where these deals will be exclusively done at Sandton by the retailers …”
“And we are very excited for the festive season. We’ve got some great activations. We have Peppa Pig for those with small children at Eastgate. People love that. So that show will be there. And at Sandton we’ve got the Momo Show, which is a wonderful, heartwarming story done by the producers of the successful Nutcracker that we had a few years ago.”
“So I’m excited for our retailers because they’re going to have bumper trading and I really hope that it is a great season for them.”
Sandton City turned 50 recently. Do you want to share anything on that?
“What a wonderful celebration it was to have this asset turn 50 years from [the] 1973 bonnet-of-a-car kind of conceptualising that.
“We’re really today standing on the shoulders of those giants who conceptualised it and built it, and we have the privilege of looking after it.
“Hopefully for the next 50 years it will continue to be a proud member of South Africa’s assets.”
“We had a really bumper month in September in Sandton’s trading, and I’m sure our retailers are as pleased with it as we are.”
Listen to the full episode here.
You can also listen to previous episodes of The Property Pod here.