CAPE TOWN – International and residential strategies helped Emira Property Fund counter a difficult domestic economy and boosted the group’s turnaround which helped lift its final dividend by 3.1 percent to 78.48cents per share for the year to June 30, in line with guidance and making it the second year of dividend growth.
Revenue decreased by 4.8 percent to R1.7billion, operating profit fell by 9.5 percent to R954 million, and headline earnings per share was down 9.4percent to 159.51c.
Net asset value per share increased 1.9percent to 1790.8c.
Emira chief executive Geoff Jennett said their strategy involves rebalancing its portfolio of assets out of offices, recycling under-performing capital into yield-accretive investment in the US, and diversifying into residential property locally.
“We have made good, gradual progress on our strategies despite the tough local trading conditions throughout the year,” he said,
Office vacancies improved to 5.3percent from 7.1percent, mostly due to a R1.8bn portfolio disposal to Inani Prop Holdings. The directly held South African office exposure fell to 24.5percent from 35.3percent of total overall assets, leaving it “fundamentally rebalanced” and with 21 office buildings, of which 19 are P and A grade, said Jennett.
Emira closed the year with 80 directly held South African properties, valued at R10.9bn.
New letting and contractual escalations saw Emira’s stable portfolio notch up like-for-like net revenue growth of 3.1percent.
A highlight was leasing four of the 11 floors of 80 Strand, Cape Town, co-owned by Emira and Swish, to global co-working brand WeWork. It also invested R239.2m in upgrades.
The R209.3m Bolton residential conversion in Rosebank with co-investors the Feenstra Group, came on stream to become Emira’s sole directly-held residential property.
Completed in May 2018, it was more than 75 percent let by year-end.
Emira also has indirect exposure to the residential rental property sector through its 34.9percent stake in Transcend Residential Property Fund, which it took up during the year.
Transcend made a R37.9m contribution to Emira’s total income.
Enyuka, Emira’s rural retail property venture with One Property Holdings, which holds R1.1bn of lower LSM shopping centre assets, contributed R77.5m to Emira’s distributable income.
Emira more than doubled its US assets from four to nine properties. The latest was University Town Center in Norman, Oklahoma, where $12.4m (R188.87m) was invested for a 49.6percent equity interest.
Some proceeds from the office portfolio disposal were used to reduce debt, and R3.3bn of debt that matured was either refinanced long-term or settled. Gearing was at 36.1percent.
Shareholders could expect positive dividend growth for the year ahead, said Jennett.