Billion Group: Construction socio-economic development

One of the most important aspects of property development is to enhance lives by creating a better environment and platform for economic development. At Billion Group, that aim has been accomplished with a series of ambitious projects that have delivered not only socially but on the bottom line figures also.

billion-group-1In June 2015 the company announced that its R1.4 billion BT Ngebs City mall in Mthatha, Eastern Cape had opened.

The 60,000 square metre project is part of a R16 billion investment earmarked for the Eastern Cape over the next 10 years.

Over the past few years South Africa has seen a significant number of sizeable malls under development, with retailers embarking on aggressive space expansion to grow market share amid a slowdown in spending, as escalating living costs and debt weigh.

Billion CEO Sisa Ngebulana said the group’s research pointed to a 240,000 square metre undersupply in retail in Mthatha.

“Retail sales in Mthatha are one of the highest in the country; retailers are streaming through and they want more space — the space they have in town is not enough and they can’t expand where they are.”

Mr Ngebulana, who is also the CE of JSE-listed Rebosis Property Fund, said “a comprehensive mix of tenants, including retail, fashion, banking, homeware, health, sports and entertainment will ensure this development caters to all 478,000 households in the catchment area.”

The mall, inspired by his entrepreneurial grandfather, Tandi “BT” Ngebulana, who hails from the former homeland Transkei, adds to Billion’s retail portfolio, joining its super-regional Hemingways in East London and Mdantsane City in East London.

A month earlier, Billion Group, through a joint venture with Abacus Asset Management, opened the 90,000 square metre Baywest Mall on the western outskirts of Port Elizabeth.

Such retail developments of course bring not only choice to the consumer, but jobs and opportunities to the whole region.

In March 2014, news came through that Nedbank Corporate Property Finance was collaborating with Billion Group on delivering economic development opportunities in the Eastern Cape, which involved the construction of BT Ngebs Mall.

News of the partnership merely built on the existing environment of retail expansion and saw Nedbank providing R1.1 billion in finance to fund the development of the BT Ngebs Mall in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.

Speaking in July 2013, Sisa Ngebulana, CEO of Billion Group, explained why the BT Ngebs Mall project was personally important to him and once again revealed the link between property development and economic development:

“This development is very close to my heart – we are very excited about the opportunities it will unlock in the region.

“At a cost of R1.3 billion, BT Ngebs Mall will not only create thousands of sustainable jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities but our R60 million infrastructure investment will assist in addressing Mthatha’s road, electricity and other infrastructure challenges.

“The development will also create a number of entrepreneurial opportunities within the region, such as potential supply chain agreements, care and maintenance contracts and the provision of a retail platform within the mall for products and services,” he added.

This collaboration underlined the long-standing relationship that the 2 companies have forged over a number of years, as Ken Reynolds, regional executive of Nedbank Corporate Property Finance in Gauteng, stated:

billion-group-2“Given the current economic and market conditions, coupled with a competitive South African property finance sector, the importance of trusting and synergistic relationships between developers and financiers cannot be emphasised enough. It is as a direct result of this kind of relationship that has been nurtured between Billion and Nedbank over the years that this deal could be concluded in a way that adds value to both parties, while also contributing to much needed economic development and social upliftment in the regions and communities in which the mall is being built,” he declared.

Ngebulana was quick to highlight the key role of partnership as the property development industry helps to facilitate transformation in South Africa:

“There is still significant scope in South Africa for growth in black-owned property development and investment companies, but this much needed growth will only be fully facilitated through forward thinking partnerships,” he said.

Nedbank Corporate Property Finance was also involved in a R1.36 billion finance agreement with Billion Property Developments that will see the construction of the new 73,588 m² Forest Hill Shopping Centre in Monavoni, Centurion.

Forest Hill Shopping Centre will be situated on the N14 highway on the western periphery of Tshwane and will include a large regional shopping mall with 175 retail outlets, an 8-cinema complex and an ice rink.

Future phases include a 20,000 square metre value centre, offices, motor showrooms, residential homes and two hotels – all of which will form part of a massive new multi-functional precinct known as Forest Hill City.

The Billion Group has its headquarters in Johannesburg and has enjoyed meteoric growth since its launch in 1999. Today the business is split into a number of divisions:

The Billion Property Group is the property development arm with a particular flare for retail,

The Phomella Property Fund owns the commercial and retail properties directly. The retail properties, during the design and construction phase – which can be time-consuming, are held under separate entities, only being transferred to Phomella once construction is completed. The management of the properties within Phomella is either then outsourced to independent service providers or performed in-house under Billion Property Services.

Additionally, Rebosis Property Fund was established by the Billion Group in 2010, and the company became the first black-managed and substantially black-held property fund to be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Billion Group’s work is laying not only the foundations for its own long-term future but for the enhanced lives of thousands.