Picture: MAS
Picture: MAS

European fund MAS Real Estate has aggressively expanded into the Central and Eastern European (CEE) commercial property market since 2016, trebling its overall asset base.

The company is now one of a few JSE-listed property companies positioned to grow its dividends at double digits in 2019 and 2020.

The group achieved a 38% increase year-on-year in its rental income in the six months to December. It declared a dividend per share of 3.78 euro cents, a 40% increase over the 2.70 euro cents in the comparative period, driven by property acquisitions and dividend income from its investments in other companies    

MAS's asset base has increased from €300m in 2016 to €900m in 2019, with the company having been restructured in this time. In 2016, it changed its strategy from being a company which enabled a group of investors to shift some of their wealth offshore to a JSE main board listed company for public investors.

"Our solid performance results from the strategic decision taken three years ago to restructure and grow the company's balance sheet," interim CEO Malcolm Levy said. 

MAS has also been disposing of mature assets in Western Europe and acquiring malls in CEE from which it can draw income. 

"The emphasis was on developing and owning a portfolio of predominantly retail assets in CEE to complement and diversify our Western European portfolio, and as a result two joint ventures were formed with Prime Kapital, focusing on developing and acquiring dominant assets in strong locations within CEE," Levy said.   

MAS was created in 2009 as an initiative of several large South African property investors keen on diversifying their holdings into overseas markets.

The major shareholders of the company, which has its head office on the Isle of Man, then included Attacq, Mertech and Sanlam.

MAS has been on an acquisition spree in CEE. The company acquired two Romanian malls; Militari Shopping Centre in Bucharest and Atrium Mall in Arad during the reporting period.

And then in February, MAS, through its co-investment joint venture with Prime Kapital, clinched a deal to buy nine completed developments in Romania from PKM Developments for €108.6m. Development extensions planned for the centres in Slobozia, Roman and Baia Mare are expected to add 11, 000m² of gross lettable area and will be sold to the co-investment venture upon completion.   

MAS was on track to meet its dividend target of 8.75 euro cents per share for the full year to June 2019, a 15% increase compared with its 2018 financial year.

andersona@businesslive.co.za