Liberty Two Degrees meets operational performance expectations

Amelia Beattie, CEO of Liberty Two Degrees.
Amelia Beattie, CEO of Liberty Two Degrees.

Liberty Two Degrees has released its interim results for the six months ended 30th of June 2018, declaring a half-year distribution of 29.31 cents per unit. 

As a result of the acquisition of additional undivided shares of R2.5 bllion in the Liberty Property Portfolio pursuant to Liberty Group exercising its put option, Liberty Two Degrees’ robust and 100% local direct property portfolio was valued at R8.7 billion at 30 June 2018, increasing from R6.1 billion at 30 June 2017. In addition, the group’s net property income grew to R272.8 million from R179.5 million in the comparative period.

Liberty Two Degrees recorded a growth in profit from operations, before interest income and fair value adjustments, at R255.2 million from R158.8 million at 30 June 2017.

Chief Executive of Liberty Two Degrees, Amelia Beattie said,Despite the challenging economic environment, our portfolio has performed in line with expectations. Our income producing assets are underpinned by strong property fundamentals resulting in the distribution declared which is now derived from net property income, and no interest income as per the previous comparative period. Our active asset management initiatives and leasing activities, specifically those relating to filling the Stuttafords vacancies, have enabled us to reduce the overall vacancy rate to 6.0% at 30 June 2018 (31 December 2017: 6.4%). Taking into account the pre-let deals, the overall vacancy reduces to 4.4%.”

Retail vacancies remained unchanged from the 31 December 2017 period at 4.3%. Including the pre-let deals, the vacancy would be lower at 1.8% as the new tenants only start trading towards the end of the year. The office vacancy decreased to 9.7% from 10.3% at 31 December 2017 whereas when taking the pre-let deals into consideration, the office vacancy is lower at 9.0%.

In responding to market concerns, on 18 May 2018 by way of a cautionary announcement, the group communicated its intention to; convert to a corporate REIT (New Liberty Two Degrees), internalise the management company by acquiring all of the issued shares from Liberty Holdings for R300 million, acquire additional undivided units in LPP increasing the portfolio’s value by R1.2 billion and cancel the Liberty put option, collectively referred to as the Proposed Transaction.

“The Proposed Transactions seeks to more closely align Liberty Two Degrees to investors and more importantly respond to factors that inhibit the full achievement of Liberty Two Degree’s objectives and growth targets as originally envisaged. This transaction is envisaged to restore positive sentiment in line with our strategy to unlock and deliver performance for our investors, better aligning unit holder value to the inherent value of Liberty Two Degree’s net asset value” adds Beattie.

Unit holders are advised that the necessary agreements to proceed with the Proposed Transaction have been concluded. The full terms announcement in this regard was released on SENS on 23 July 2018 and further details will be set out in the circular which will be posted to unit holders. A general meeting will be held on 28 August 2018 for the approval of the transaction by unit holders.  It is envisaged that the effective date of the Proposed Transaction is 01 October 2018.

“We believe this transaction is a bold step in the progression of our business. We are confident that New L2D will attract a broader investor base when converting to the better accepted corporate REIT structure. The Proposed Transactions will see the introduction of a conservative level of debt to the capital structure of New L2D which will assist in reducing New L2D’s weighted average cost of capital over time”commented  L2D Financial Director, José Snyders.

Liberty Two Degrees’ portfolio is performing well from a trading perspective as is evidenced in the turnover growth figures at the flagship assets, recording a positive year on year trading density growth of 2.8%. Overall, the portfolio sustained a positive turnaround in trading densities in the period compared to a negative 6.0% at June 2017. This strong recovery was supported mainly by an improvement in trading density at Sandton City of 5.4%. In addition, other key assets also contributed positively – Promenade (5.0%) and Eastgate (2.7%).

“We believe that the Proposed Transactions that have been announced are expected to contribute to an enhanced distribution growth in the future. The improved trading performance especially at Sandton City, is evidence of the robust nature of the portfolio and its ability to attract new tenants and retain existing tenants in tough economic conditions. We continue to believe strongly in our South Africa strategy and place a continued focus on key drivers that unlock value and position the portfolio to take advantage of opportunities that deliver sustainable growth”concludes Beattie.

The information contained above has not been reviewed or reported on by Liberty Two Degree’s auditors.