To thrive, we must really understand what our clients need and respond nimbly to assist them to re-imagine their workplaces and work practices.
|Africa’s first WELL rating||Cementing our commitment to sustainability and doing the right thing, the Growthpoint-developed Exxaro headquarters in Pretoria, a 21 000m2 office building opposite the Centurion Gautrain Station, became the first building in Africa to be awarded WELL certification. It received Silver Level WELL Core and Shell Certification from the International WELL Building Institute in the US. The WELL Building Standard is the first global rating system to focus exclusively on how buildings, and everything in them, can enhance health and wellbeing. It was developed by integrating scientific and medical research with leading property expertise. In line with both Exxaro's and Growthpoint's high environmental standards, the design for the leading-edge HQ development also achieved a 5-Star Green Star rating from the GBCSA.|
|Successful letting of 144 Oxford||We fully let our new development at 144 Oxford Road in Rosebank, Johannesburg, to blue chip clients including anchor tenant Anglo American, PepsiCo, Rothschild & Co, Finastra, Integrove and UBS South Africa. This is one of the biggest office buildings in the Rosebank business district and its marketing was excellently timed to coincide with there being little competing stock in the market. We achieved our feasibility rentals with all clients. While constructing this 4-Star Green Star certified building, we also worked to build a good relationship with its immediate surrounding community.|
|Extreme economic weakness before Covid-19||The confluence of negative factors in the economy decreased demand for offices and choked rental growth.|
|Downshift in office requirements||There is a shift in trend from tenants favouring new, expensive space to wanting smaller, cheaper premises but in good nodes with easy access to many amenities.|
|Pinpoint location demand||Precise position within a higher-demand node is having an even bigger bearing on market appeal. Some micro-locations in business nodes are outperforming others and Growthpoint owns offices in many of these areas.|
|Severe and prolonged Covid-19 lockdown||Business disruption has had an extreme impact on smaller tenants and those in certain sectors, such as travel and tourism.|
|Balancing flexibility and control||Businesses are seeking to control hygiene and access to their workplaces, yet also want flexible spaces, which requires new solutions.|
Our office portfolio delivered a solid showing prior to Covid-19, even though vacancies had crept higher and rentals reverted lower with the worsening South African economy and weakened property fundamentals.
Reducing vacancies and retaining tenants were key focus areas. Our typical portfolio assets – bigger, premium and A-grade buildings – are no longer the darlings of the market. Many businesses are now willing to sacrifice space and quality for the sake of economics and short-term sustainability. This has been a challenge for us in FY20 but the size of our portfolio and the situation of our assets are advantages.
Our agility in accommodating new and changing needs also put us in a strong position and we were able to conclude some good transactions, even in this tough market.
Vacancies increased but a notable number of our vacancies at year end were simply a matter of timing and new developments coming to market. For instance, the ex-Deloitte space of 39 800m2 at Woodmead Office Park in Sandton had been successfully re-let on long-lease terms to Altron and DRA Global well in advance of the space becoming available, but the lockdown delayed occupation, which is now expected before HY21.
Fortuitously, we had little new development coming on stream this year. Lockdown business disruption, high uncertainty and low business confidence resulted in slow take-up of our new developments in Durban and Cape Town. However, there is demand for these offices and we are confident the buildings will attract tenants in due course. It is fortunate that we have come to the end of a development cycle and are thus not adding to market oversupply.
No single vacancy in our portfolio represents a specific problem but the combination of new development vacancies and tenants facing business problems has had a significant cumulative effect. The tough economic environment means vacancies are also likely to increase.
Rental arrears, a key focus for our team, was initially under control and isolated to a handful of issues. However, arrears levels increased after March and this is likely to be a more pervasive issue going forward due to the intense pressure on business in general.
Throughout the year, our team focused on letting the new developments we had coming to market and on disposing of non-core assets through commercially sound deals.
We concluded two small but strategic building acquisitions this year, both with an upside that Growthpoint is best positioned to unlock. We sold six small, non-core properties – mostly empty buildings that were snapped up by buyers who were predominantly new owner-occupiers. The sales were accretive, reduced our vacant space and strengthened the portfolio. We had hoped to sell more non-core assets and, despite an even more difficult market, will continue to recycle properties wherever feasible, to strengthen our portfolio in areas where there is demand and disengage where there is none.
Development enables us to build bespoke buildings which exemplify our location, grade and green building criteria. Our experience, combined with that of our development team, qualifies us to design and build-in superior longevity, sustainability and functionality. Three geographically diverse new developments joined our existing office portfolio during this year, the most significant being 144 Oxford.
|29 Richefont||Umhlanga Ridge, Durban||New office building||Various||3 418||91||August 2019|
|32 on Kloof||Longkloof, Cape Town||Redevelopment||Workshop 17||2 281||75||August 2019|
|Woodmead Estate||Woodmead, Johannesburg||Refurbishment||SAP||7 857||32||October 2019|
|Draper on Main||Claremont, Cape Town||New office building||5 361||153||December 2019|
|144 Oxford||Rosebank, Johannesburg||New office building||Various||36 988||1 150||February 2020|
|The Woodlands||Woodmead, Johannesburg||Redevelopment of buildings 1 to 8||Altron||27 469||226||February 2021|
|Longkloof Studios||Longkloof, Cape Town||Parking basement, Refurbishment||Various||N/A||261||February 2021|
Due to the global uncertainty around international travel and tourism due to the pandemic, we have decided not to bring our development of Canopy by Hilton in Cape Town's Longkloof precinct to market at this time. It will, instead, be completed at a time that best assures the hotel's success.
Until we can more accurately assess post-Covid-19 market demand, we have also limited our new development pipeline.
We will invest in refurbishments to keep our buildings modern and attractive to existing and potential tenants. This includes redeveloping and repurposing our offices and we have several such projects planned for the year ahead. None of these are speculative; all are tenant driven, including a refurbishment for Microsoft in Bryanston. This year, projects included the addition of standby water facilities at several of our buildings and office parks nationally, to support continuous safe operations during the increasingly frequent water interruptions in RSA.
The office sector fared relatively well during the lockdown to end-June. Growthpoint's portfolio has a high proportion of large, listed blue chip clients who were able to sustain themselves through the economic and financial shocks. Our smaller tenants, however, were under more strain.
Covid-19 will impact our office sector business to the extent that it impacts our clients. Initially, office tenants experiencing business interruptions because of the lockdown requested assistance in the form of rental deferrals. However, requests for discounts soon followed with the extended lockdown period.
In solidarity with our tenants, we are being flexible and finding workable solutions to help sustain their businesses. This varies from rental relief to relocation to different or smaller spaces. Business sectors such as travel and tourism, marketing and media have been devastated while some professionals have also been very badly affected, and we are doing what we can to assist those tenants.
Most of our team mastered working remotely during the lockdown, while our building and facilities managers remained safely on site doing a fantastic job preparing workspaces for returning businesses. We have always emphasised cleanliness in our buildings but the measures necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19 have heightened our awareness of offering sanitised office environments.
Our experience underpins our confidence in the post-Covid-19 rebound of the office sector. We found that while less travel for meetings helps us work smarter and is more efficient in terms of time, cost and carbon footprint, there are times when strategic meetings, negotiations and ideation sessions are impossible to duplicate digitally and need to be done in person.
Offices in amenity-rich environments with outdoor access are proving to be popular for enhanced Covid-19 curtailing precautions. This has the potential to play out well for the contained environments created in the office parks in our portfolio. We are receiving demand from call centres which need more office space and prefer operating across two buildings in one office park to minimise risk and safeguard continuity. Also, some tenants now favour having their own building over multi-tenanted offices, in order to control hygiene and access, but still want access to amenities. Growthpoint has recently increased the amenities at our office parks, such as introducing a Mugg & Bean restaurant to The Woodlands and a hotel, medical centre and Dis-Chem store to Constantia Office Park in Johannesburg.
Beyond office parks, Growthpoint also contributes to many city improvement districts across the country, for the sake of our buildings and our tenants, but also our neighbourhoods and communities. We invest in the urban fabric around us to foster well-managed, safe, clean and amenity-rich districts that also happen to support the ongoing appeal of our offices.
Outlook for FY21
In an environment clouded by uncertainty, the solid fundamentals on which we have built our office portfolio over the years are a source of confidence.
Lockdown restrictions demand very little personal interaction and many businesses now appreciate anew the importance of their workplace. Offices facilitate corporate culture, collaboration, problem-solving, creativity and innovation like no other business tool can. They are the key that unlocks market advantage and drives differentiation. Of course, dynamics in the sector will be different now. Densities will decrease and remote working will increase. The way businesses and people work will undoubtedly become more agile. We believe that offering clients good workspaces in amenity-rich settings, supported by excellent service, is the foundation for success in this new environment. To thrive, we must really understand what our clients need and respond nimbly to assist them to re-imagine their workplaces and work practices. Workplaces, from corporate headquarters to co-working spaces, will need to be safe and flexible.
Market forces, such as downsizing and space consolidation, led to a general decline in tenant retention in FY20.
Regardless of the environment, we believe we can do better in this area. By talking to our tenants during the Covid-19 lockdown, we have already improved our understanding of their businesses and their pinch points and strengthened our relationships. Our established SmartMove initiative has been joined by our SmartFlex campaign for tenants seeking unprecedented flexibility. It offers short-term leases of three to 18 months at market rentals across 28 of our buildings, mainly in Gauteng, which are already fitted out and only require furnishing by the tenant
Both these leasing initiatives reward new tenants and we acknowledge that there is an opportunity to reward long-standing tenants too. We are exploring ways to do this. In the meanwhile, nothing beats the value of providing tenants with the right accommodation and service. A key element of our service delivery is providing offices with a lower cost of occupancy that also support business continuity with back-up power and water. Growthpoint is a leader in this field and we are determined to continue to build on our advantage in this area for the benefit of our tenants.
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, we believe there will be increased emphasis going forward on the design and operation of buildings for occupant health and wellbeing. Work environments that have a positive impact on physical and mental health, and workplaces that protect our families, businesses, communities and the public, will be most sought-after. Green buildings that prioritise health factors such as good ventilation and air quality are well positioned as the office properties of the future. Green buildings are also cheaper to run, which adds to their attraction for tenants. Growthpoint has the biggest portfolio of green-certified office buildings in Africa and targets a 4-Star Green Star rating by the GBCSA, or higher, for any new office development. This puts us in a strong position for the future.
Growthpoint's commitment to ESG reassures clients and potential tenants that we act with integrity, do the right thing and treat our clients and our people with respect. Ethical conduct is a market advantage in the office property sector.
Office tenants top 10 by gross rental contribution as at 30 June 2020
|1||Discovery Holdings Limited (55%)||66 696|
|2||Transnet Limited||31 535|
|3||Absa Bank Limited||28 393|
|4||Exxaro Resources Limited||21 708|
|5||Investec Bank Limited||13 785|
|6||EOH Holdings Limited||29 241|
|7||Ogilvy & Mather South Africa (Pty) Ltd||16 160|
|8||Aecom SA (Pty) Ltd||9 873|
|9||MTN Limited||13 317|
|10||Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs Incorporated||15 781|
|Balance of the sector||1 167 225|
Total for the office sector (excluding vacancies)
|1 413 714|
Office properties top five by value
Hover on properties below to view infomation
DISCOVERY 1 & 2 (55%)
The Discovery campus is prominently situated in close proximity to Sandton City and the Gautrain. The interior boasts modern state-of-the-art finishes.
WOODLANDS OFFICE PARK
This office park consists of a number of buildings. The buildings are situated in a low density, game park environment with free roaming blesbok, impala, springbok, and other smaller animals and bird life. The Woodlands boasts amenities such as a restaurant, a gym, a nursery school and dry cleaner. The park is on a Gautrain shuttle route and is known in the area for hosting the park run.
CONSTANTIA OFFICE PARK
With a superb location benefiting from excellent N1 highway visibility and accessibility, together with amenities including a Virgin Active Gym and a Protea Express Hotel, it offers a combination of A and B-grade office space to 90 tenants, set in a lush park environment. It is let to major tenants like MTN, Afrisam and Primedia.
The office park offers easy access to major public transport routes. The park is a mix of modern and contemporary buildings that allows natural light to flow through.
Situated at Sandton's premier address, The Place comprises P-grade office space. It is