Nosiphiwo Bal­four

Financial Mail - - PROFILE - CEO of Tex­ton Prop­erty Fund

When Nosiphiwo Bal­four, 35, was ap­pointed CEO of Tex­ton Prop­erty Fund a year ago, many thought the for­mer banker and In­vestec an­a­lyst had been handed a poi­soned chal­ice. Not only was she the fourth CEO to take over the reins at Tex­ton within barely two years but her ap­point­ment came at a time that share­holder sen­ti­ment had hit rock bot­tom fol­low­ing a steady de­cline in the share price.

Div­i­dend growth was also un­der pres­sure, squeezed on the one hand by Tex­ton’s heavy ex­po­sure to SA’S strug­gling of­fice mar­ket and on the other by tough trad­ing con­di­tions in the UK on the back of Brexit is­sues.

Bal­four was also one of the youngest and first black fe­male CEOS to en­ter a sec­tor known for its “old boys’ club” ap­proach.

But un­fazed and de­ter­mined to steer Tex­ton back to sta­bil­ity, Bal­four qui­etly got on with the job. A year later, she has made im­pres­sive strides in turn­ing Tex­ton around. Bal­four cites the com­ple­tion of the long-awaited in­ter­nal­i­sa­tion of Tex­ton’s man­age­ment com­pany as a ma­jor mile­stone, given that the move will go a long way to align man­age­ment’s in­ter­ests with those of share­hold­ers.

She has also grown the com­pany’s as­set base and re­duced its ex­po­sure to of­fice prop­er­ties by ac­quir­ing a lo­gis­tics port­fo­lio in Cape Town for R205.3m — Tex­ton’s first earn­ings ac­cre­tive deal in two years.

In ad­di­tion, Bal­four has suc­cess­fully nav­i­gated a dif­fi­cult lease re­newal pe­riod as 42% of the com­pany’s leases ex­pired in the year to June 2018. By May, 36% of re­newals were al­ready bed­ded down — no easy ac­com­plish­ment in a weak econ­omy where most of­fice land­lords are deal­ing with ris­ing va­can­cies and ren­tal ar­rears.

Bal­four’s 13-year ca­reer in real es­tate, ini­tially in prop­erty fi­nance at Stan­dard Bank and later as an an­a­lyst at In­vestec As­set Man­age­ment, where she was also re­spon­si­ble for manag­ing client re­la­tion­ships, has no doubt helped her steer the com­pany through what has been a tricky turn­around. She says trans­parency was a key ob­jec­tive for her.

“As a for­mer an­a­lyst, I know how im­por­tant it is for man­age­ment to en­gage with stake­hold­ers.”

It also helped that Bal­four wasn’t a com­plete new­bie to Tex­ton, hav­ing served on the board from June 2014, which she be­lieves pro­vided her with im­por­tant strate­gic in­sight into the com­pany.

Bal­four, who spent six years dur­ing apartheid in ex­ile in Mel­bourne in Aus­tralia with her three sib­lings, her mother and father, for­mer sports min­is­ter Ng­conde Bal­four, has al­ways had an in­ter­est in bricks and mor­tar. Af­ter ma­tric­u­lat­ing at Wyn­berg Girls’ High in Cape Town in 2000 where she was the school’s first black head girl, she en­rolled for a BSC Hons in prop­erty stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Cape Town. She later also com­pleted a post­grad­u­ate diploma in in­vest­ment anal­y­sis and port­fo­lio man­age­ment.

Bal­four ac­cepts that restor­ing in­vestor con­fi­dence won’t hap­pen overnight.

“It is no small feat hav­ing to nav­i­gate a prop­erty com­pany with high of­fice ex­po­sure through the cur­rent mar­ket en­vi­ron­ment, but we are work­ing hard to re­turn the com­pany to sta­bil­ity and show in­vestors that we can de­liver sus­tain­able earn­ings growth,” she says.

Mean­while, Bal­four says it’s high time that prop­erty com­pa­nies help pro­pel more women into de­ci­sion-mak­ing roles. As the mother of an 18-month-old son, she be­lieves women shouldn’t have to choose be­tween fam­ily and a ca­reer. “There is no reason women can’t do both, so why is Tex­ton the only com­pany among the JSE’S 50-odd real es­tate com­pa­nies with a fe­male pair­ing of CEO and CFO [Inge Pick]?

Given the size of the sec­tor, com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tion should be far more di­verse, both from a gen­der and de­mo­graphic point of view.”

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