BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
A STRING of the country’s big brands, including fast food outlets, has stampeded into Zimre Property Investments’ Sawanga Mall in Victoria Falls, helping the top end real estate gem notch 95% occupancy rates, according to managing director, Edson Muvingi.
This places the US$13 million Sawanga Mall among a handful of properties that have defied immense pressures being exerted on realtors by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sawanga Mall was commissioned last year.
Zimre said the facility made significant contribution to the group’s rental income during the half year to June 30, 2020.
But it was a period when the deadly COVID-19 pandemic hit the real estate sector as firms reduced working space after directing workers to work from home.
In Victoria Falls, Sawanga experienced a completely opposite response after attracting Bata shoe company, fast foods giant Nandos, NMB Bank, TM Pick n Pay supermarkets, Ethiopian Airways, Nedbank, FBC Bank, First Mutual and Liquid Telecom.
Aurex Jewellery, Trinity Pharmacy, Adidas Sportswear, RocoMamas and TV Sales & Home have also taken up space at the top end real estate gem.
Nandos occupied their space in November, just in time for the Christmas holiday.
Muvingi told NewsDay Business recently that Sawanga had surpassed management’s expectations considering the impact of COVID-19 to the economy.
“Our numbers are good,” Muvingi said.
“That’s why you saw Nandos opening. We believe Chicken Hut could open anytime soon. The other tenants are operating well. The retail side has had some impact in terms of turnover returns but it (COVID-19) hasn’t really affected us that much,” he said.
“It’s the offices and student accommodation where we have suffered significantly. Retail is performing quite well. There has been some significant movement around there. You see significant spikes where people buy, sometimes, things which they don’t even need just to make sure that their stocks are up in the event of any lockdown.”
“The more we talk about a second possible lockdown, the more people buy and stock up. So it has been quite well. It’s a different sector, it’s a different market, different environment, we like the fact that there is a bit of opening, tourists movement into Victoria Falls and all, so that gives us some good lifeline,” Muvingi said.
He said 95% of the space at the facility was occupied.
“It’s literally full,” said Muvingi.
“The only space that is not occupied is the space that was left by Innscor when they changed their plans. Otherwise the occupancy is very good. The space was even taken before the mall was complete,” he said.
For Zimre, the excitement goes beyond Nandos’ presence inside the mall.
Nandos is a crowd puller that can bolster the businesses of entire tenants at the operation, as well as Zimre’s revenues.
“People are going to spend more time in the shopping centre and they are likely to spend more money in the shopping centre,” he said.
Asked whether Zimre had plans to open another shopping mall in the near future, Muvingi said while expansion plans were underway, Victoria Falls would not be get another Zimre mall soon.
“Not in Victoria Falls,” he told NewsDay Business.
“In Victoria Falls we are working on our lodges. I think it will be too preemptive for now but we are working with some of the retailers. There are two that we are working on. We believe they are going to come up.”
Zimre recently delisted from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange after minority shareholders accepted new shares in its parent company, Zimre Holdings Limited.
Delisting, would, however, not shift its business strategy and vision, according to Muvingi.
Zimre recorded a rental income growth of 27% to $24,21 million during the half year to June 30, 2020 compared to $19,05 million attained in the corresponding period last year.
Rental income, according to the company, was boosted by regular upward reviews and improved turnover rental on retail space.
Investment properties were valued at $2,25 billion by independent valuers during the period under review, representing a 75% growth from December 2019.
However, in US dollar terms, the portfolio value declined, reflective of the discount on portfolio rental income in US$ terms and the deteriorating exchange rate.
Zimre posted a $946,67 million profit during the period, compared to $580,67 million previously. Total revenue declined by 29% to $27,06 million.
COVID-19 paralysed performance of tourism-related assets, student accommodation and project sales, while it negatively affected office space.
However, retail space was resilient.
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