Brighter days for First Mutual properties

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South Africa’s Liberty Holdings Limited is interested in acquiring First Mutual Holdings Limited

First Mutual Properties occupancy levels are seen closing the year at 78% from the current levels buoyed by its office park in Harare’s Arundel Park and industrial units as the firm banks on its diversified portfolio.

Melody Chikono

Occupancy levels rose 3.6% to 76% in the four months to April 2018 from 72,4% in 2017 largely driven by those two properties.

FMHL managing director Chris Manyowa told businessdigest on Tuesday on the sidelines of his company’s annual general meeting that occupancy levels at the firm’s Arundel office park have been going up accounting for the performance.

While it is facing occupancy challenges as everyone in the industry, Manyowa said FMHL plight had more to do with where they are invested.

“On the issues of occupancy it’s a question of where you are invested in predominantly.

“We are also in the CBD and are also struggling in that area. We have a diversified portfolio, our small industrial units and office park in Arundel did very well. The occupancy levels have been going up and that accounts for that performance,” he said.

Manyowa added that companies moving from the CBD are giving leverage to companies invested outside central Harare.
While the Arundel office park is almost full, he said little effort would be needed for industrial units.

“We might not continue to enjoy high occupancies. Obviously, there will be vacations which will take place but with a base of 76% we expect to be at 78% at the end of the year,” he said.

In terms of portfolio investments as a long-term strategy, Manyowa said the company was looking at all growth areas, adding location would be of paramount importance.

Last year, the firm acquired a supermarket in Chivhu and another property in Belgravia, Harare.

“We want to continue in that direction. We are looking at retail housing on a pre-let basis and also office parks because like I indicated it’s a sector which has proven to be a good performer.

“It is a sector with opportunities so we will look at them,” he said.

During the period, revenue increased 7% to US$2,5 million compared to US$2,4 million in the same period in 2017 while net operating profit rose 11,3% to stand at US$1,294 million from US$1,1 million.