R10bn Water­front sale de­nied

Lo­cal prop­erty in­vestors said to be in­volved in con­sor­tium

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - MELANIE PETERS and LEILA SAMODIEN

THE COM­PA­NIES said to be in­volved in the pur­chase for R10 bil­lion of one of the coun­try’s most sought-af­ter prop­er­ties, the V&A Water­front, have de­nied any in­volve­ment.

Yes­ter­day the Mail & Guardian web­site re­ported that a con­sor­tium in­clud­ing prop­erty man­ager Growth­point, bank­ing gi­ant Absa and the Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion had bought the tourist des­ti­na­tion.

The site quoted two peo­ple who had ap­par­ently been briefed on the trans­ac­tion. One of the two said: “The deal has been un­der dis­cus­sion for ages, but it was signed off to­day (Fri­day)”.

A sec­ond source said the pa­per­work would prob­a­bly be fi­nalised by Mon­day. The sell­ers were London-based prop­erty moguls Ian and Richard Liv­ing­stone through their London and Re­gional Prop­er­ties, along with the Emi­rati in­vest­ment firm Dubai World.

“The Liv­ing­stones are tak­ing cash, and Dubai World is tak­ing a mix­ture of cash and shares,” said the re­port.

But last night Growth­point de­nied it was in­volved. The com­pany’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Esti­enne de Klerk said the ar­ti­cle pub­lished on the Mail & Guardian’s web­site was “un­true”.

“We’re dis­tanc­ing our­selves from that ar­ti­cle,” he said. “We’re not aware of a trans­ac­tion; that’s our po­si­tion on the mat­ter. If a trans­ac­tion is fi­nalised in which Growth­point is in­volved, it will proac­tively com­mu­ni­cate that with the me­dia.”

Absa head of com­mer­cial prop­erty fi­nance, Mike Mor­timer, said he was not sure where the in­for­ma­tion came from. They had al­ways been in­volved as fi­nancers of the Water­front but were not part of any con­sor­tium to buy it.

Shaun Rai, ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Cape Em­pow­er­ment Trust Ltd, a BEE con­sor­tium, said it had not been in­formed of the sale. But he said if the Water­front had been sold, it was not a sur­prise as ru­mours had been rife re­cently.

The names of all three com­pa­nies – Growth­point, Absa and the Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion – had been thrown around as pos­si­ble buy­ers.

“Loads of ru­mours have been go­ing around, so we know there is a good pos­si­bil­ity that the Water­front may be­come avail­able soon,” he said.

The V&A Water­front ranks as South Africa’s num­ber one tourist des­ti­na­tion, and it is al­most cer­tainly the coun­try’s sin­gle most valu­able piece of real es­tate. It was con­tro­ver­sially pri­va­tised in Septem­ber 2006 by Transnet, which sold the site for R7 bil­lion. Em­pow­er­ment part­ners in the trans­ac­tion in­cluded Has­san Adams, a close as­so­ci­ate of then-Wester n Cape premier Ebrahim Ra­sool, who told the Mail & Guardian he had not been in­formed of any sale. “No one in­formed us. Hon­estly, I don’t know where this comes from. Is this a hoax?”

The Mail & Guardian web­site re­ported that the re­la­tion- ship be­tween Adams and Ra­sool and Dubai World’s sub­se­quent ef­forts to buy the ad­ja­cent Som­er­set Hos­pi­tal com­plex from the pro­vin­cial govern­ment, en­sured that the trans­ac­tion was dogged by con­tro­versy. At the time Cosatu said it amounted to “sell­ing off the fam­ily sil­ver”.

Ten­sions be­tween the Liv­ing­stones and Dubai World were con­stantly ru­moured fol­low­ing the pur­chase, with clashes over the scale and pace of new in­vest­ment at the com­plex reg­u­larly al­luded to by Water­front in­sid­ers. melanie.peters@inl.co.za leila.samodien@inl.co.za

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