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Emira expands its retail footprint and upgrades its centres

Geoff Jennett, Emira CEO Geoff Jennett, Emira CEO

Emira Property Fund continues to grow value in its retail property portfolio, investing over R250m in acquiring new centres and upgrading its shopping centres. The leading JSE-listed REIT (real estate investment trust) is already reaping the rewards of its investment in retail properties across the country.

“We’re investing strategically to strengthen our retail assets. Through key acquisitions and tactical upgrades, we have improved tenancies, shopper numbers and turnovers in our portfolio. The success of these investments is built on the solid foundation of retailer and shopper demand,” says Geoff Jennett, Emira CEO.

“With pro-active asset management of our retail portfolio, we have already achieved a low retail sector vacancy of 3.0%. This is significantly below the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) national level of 5.3%,” he adds.

Emira is a diversified mid-cap REIT invested in a quality balanced portfolio of office, retail and industrial properties. Its assets comprise 146 properties valued at R13bn. Emira is also internationally diversified through its 4,9% direct holding in ASX-listed GOZ, valued at R942,7m. Combined, its total assets come to R14bn.

Boosting its retail portfolio, Emira recently acquired a 50% undivided share in Shoprite Mall in Mitchell’s Plain in the Western Cape for R75,3m.

The mall, which comprises three neighbouring retail buildings in the town centre, spans 16,665sqm of retail space. Its benefits include over 80% national retailers, high shopper numbers, a dominant position in a regenerating urban node, and massive upside potential for Emira and the mall’s community.

“We believe that through attentive asset management, we can unlock new potential from the centre that will have a positive impact on the surrounding community, and create a more secure shopping environment. With the main anchor tenants Shoprite, Jet, Absa, Standard Bank, Nedbank, and Ackermans, we see great potential for investing in this newly acquired property and adding value in the future,” says Ulana van Biljon, COO for Emira.

Emira also recently completed a R12,1m upgrade to accommodate new and bigger stores at Market Square. This centre enjoys a great location in a growing retail node just outside the Plettenberg Bay CBD, in the Eastern Cape.

With retail space of 14,924sqm, the neighbourhood shopping centre is now home to over 50 stores, restaurants and service outlets. Boasting Woolworths and Pick n Pay as anchor food tenants, the centre has welcomed the addition of Standard Bank and Nedbank branches to boost banking services beyond its previous ATM offering. Emira’s upgrade of Market Square also saw its Woolworths store expand and upgrade.

Emira’s investment in Market Square was made on the back of its strong trading record and retailer demand. It is the second expansion of the centre in five years.

“In 2010 we spent R28m to extend the centre by 1,091sqm to accommodate both Clicks and Edgars. Since then, Market Square has continued to trade well, positioning itself as the dominant shopping centre in the area. The improvement in turnovers and trading densities across the centre since this project was completed was added motivation to go ahead with the latest expansion,” Reports Van Biljon.

Emira also invested a further R5m in its upgrade to Granada Square, a shopping centre located in the heart of Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu-Natal. The project, intended mainly to accommodate an expansion of anchor tenant Woolworths Food, is a follow on from a R44,5m upgrade and extension to the centre in 2008 when Woolworths was first opened at the centre. The expansion has almost doubled the retail offering in store. The now 25-year-old-development, totalling 7,150sqm, is home to over 30 retail and office tenants.

The R13,1m reconfiguration of the Springfield Retail Centre in KwaZulu-Natal has also yielded positive results for Emira, including several new major tenants and a stronger market position.

New retail brands at the centre include Food Lover's Market, HiFi Corporation, Toyzone, Froggie Footwear, Standard Bank, Nedbank and Baby City. This has helped reposition the 17,346sqm centre in the current market.

Located in a prime retail node, Springfield Retail Centre has excellent access to both the N2 and N3 highways in Durban. A popular shopping centre with around 40 stores, known formerly as The Home Centre, Springfield Retail Centre has provided Durban shoppers with a completely unique shopping experience.

“With a broader tenant mix, offering consumers much more variety for their grocery shopping, specialised retail and fashion, the monthly car count at the centre increased by about 15% last year as a result,” she says.

Emira also acquired the remaining 40% share in Ben Fleur Boulevard in the key Mpumalanga town of Witbank (Emalahleni) for R63,7m, making it the outright owner of the centre. Ben Fleur Boulevard serves a rapidly growing, upmarket suburb and has recently undergone a R20m upgrade to accommodate a Woolworths Food store as well as other line shops

Jennett points out that these improvements have been achieved through Emira’s strategic recycling of capital.

“We are focusing on recycling capital from disposals and investing this into improving the quality of our current assets,” says Jennett, adding Emira will continue to look for opportunities to optimise and expand its portfolio, to create value for all its stakeholders.

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