File Image: IOL

PRETORIA – Listed property funds Attacq and Hyprop and unlisted Atterbury Property plan to dispose of a portfolio of six operational retail malls in major African cities with a gross asset value of $637.1 million (R9.5 billion).

Growthpoint Investec African Properties (Giap), one of the new funds management businesses created by listed Growthpoint Properties, has emerged as a potential purchaser of some of the malls, or even the entire portfolio.

The retail assets are largely held in AttAfrica, a Mauritius-based property investment company, and comprise four malls in Ghana and another in Zambia plus the Ikeja City Mall in Lagos, Nigeria, that was jointly owned by Attacq and Hyprop.

Jackie van Niekerk, the chief operating officer of Attacq, confirmed last week that Attacq and its co-shareholders were investigating options to create liquidity in the portfolio.

Van Niekerk subsequently told Business Report that Attacq definitely wanted to exit from the rest of Africa, excluding South Africa, and would not be putting any more funding into building new opportunities on the continent.

Hyprop earlier this year also indicated it wanted to exit from the rest of Africa, because it saw more opportunities for expansion and acquisitions in Eastern Europe.

Van Niekerk was guarded in her response to whether any discussions had taken place with Giap about its possible acquisition of the portfolio.

“There are no firm offers or anything like that. It’s a small market and there are not a lot of suitors. They (Giap) are potentially one of the suitors that could potentially take up the assets in future,” she said.

Attempts to obtain comment from Growthpoint chief executive Norbert Sasse were unsuccessful.

Peter de Villiers, the chief investment officer at Attacq, said the shareholders in AttAfrica had always planned to monetise the assets in 2020, pay off any debt and go their separate ways.

De Villiers said that from a tax perspective Attacq knew it could use the funds better for its development pipeline and to reduce its interest-bearing debt, adding that Giap was new, had its funding secured and had a multi-asset focus.

“We have some quality retail developments in Africa that could fit nicely in their portfolio,” he said.

Sasse said last month that Growthpoint had only closed Giap at the end of March (this) year when it received the final commitments. It comprises $212m of commitments, including $50m from Growthpoint.

Sasse admitted that it was a struggle to find investors prepared to commit to investing in Africa after the demise of many of the economies following the oil and commodity crisis.