Last year, most property stocks were still rewarding shareholders with attractive dividend growth of 8%-12%, well ahead of inflation. That’s no longer the case. Growth of more than 6% is fast becoming the exception as rising pressure on office, industrial and retail rentals start to erode landlords’ profits. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. SA-focused real estate companies that have reported results in recent weeks have all reported a deterioration in trading conditions. Most are forced to be more negotiable on rentals or risk losing tenants to a competitor. "In my 15-odd years in property I have never experienced such tough times. The sheer lack of confidence and growth in the SA economy is taking its toll," said Growthpoint Properties CEO Norbert Sasse at last week’s annual results presentation. Though shareholders of the top-40 company will still see their dividend payouts for the year ending June rise by a decent 6.5%, Sasse said investors shouldn’t expect grow...

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