Sisa Ngebulana. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
Sisa Ngebulana. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

Rebosis Property Fund has sold two properties for R897m as it continues to offload offices in favour of shopping centres.

Rebosis announced on Wednesday that it had entered into agreements with two separate parties to buy its Pretoria-based buildings – Bank of Lisbon and SALUE.

The company's founder,  Sisa Ngebulana, has been trying to sell about R5bn worth of offices for the past two years. He previously said that he wanted Rebosis to be a retail-focused real estate investment trust (Reit) and that this was why he purchased Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth and Forest Hill City in Centurion, Gauteng, in 2016.

In 2018, Rebosis sold offices in Cape Town for about R900m to Boxwood Properties. It also announced it was in the process of selling a further R2.2bn property portfolio which included six Johannesburg buildings and one Pretoria building.

The office space  sector is still battling high vacancies while shopping centres offer better returns, said Ngebulana.

Rebosis owns six shopping centres, and many hold dominant positions in their regions. This makes these assets more defensive because they face less competition from other landlords.

Office owners throughout the country say there is a lack of demand for space due to fewer new businesses coming on to the market. 

Sandton, the most highly valued office hub in SA, has a total vacancy of about 20%, according to the latest data from the South African Property Owners’ Association (Sapoa).  The national average sits at about 11%.

Ahmed Motara, a fund manager at Stanlib, said Rebosis was selling offices to lower its debt-to-asset or loan-to-value ratio. It could focus on better managing its shopping centres once it was a retail specialist.

Rebosis was the worst performing property fund on the JSE last year, losing 68% on a total returns basis, including capital and dividend growth. This year, the company's share price has fallen 5.58% on a year-to-date basis.