Samuel Ogbu, CEO Liberty Property

Liberty Properties is an integrated property business involved in investment, development and management of prime retail, office and hotel properties primarily in South Africa but now expanding across the continent. They operate as an incorporated strategic business unit within the Liberty Holdings Group which is part of the Standard Bank Group. They have assets under management of R28 billion (e 2.5 bn) which includes some of the most iconic property assets on the continent such as the Sandton City shopping complex, Eastgate, the Sandton Convention Centre, as well as thirteen hotels and a number of major office developments. Liberty Properties in the process of completing the Levy Business Park development in Lusaka, Zambia which will be Zambia’s first fully enclosed mall, hotel and office complex, have projects in progress or under consideration in three other African countries, and also manage a listed property fund in Botswana.

What are your views on the business environment in Mauritius and what are the most important attributes you would consider prior to investing in the country?

I am very impressed with Mauritius. Although this was my first visit, I have known about and dealt with Mauritius for a long time, particularly in a previous business that I was involved with. It is a very well managed economy that has succeeded in making the most of its natural resources but, more importantly for me, is the way it has positioned itself as a gateway and facilitator of business between Africa and the rest of the world. That takes vision, imagination and hard work and I think a lot of countries in Africa can learn some useful lessons from Mauritius. Clearly, there is a well-educated work force, a business friendly legislative and policy environment and good connections with important economic zones. Together with stability in the society and a good reputation for transparency, these are all very attractive attributes.

Liberty Property has recently invested in Ascencia, the property fund of Foresite Property. What have been the motivating factors for Liberty Property to invest in Ascencia? Quite simply we saw a well managed fund with good growth prospects run by people who knew what they were doing and whom we could trust. Those are very important features for us. It also fits with our strategy of increasing our presence throughout Africa and creates good opportunities for growth for our clients. We think it is a great investment and we think we can build on the relationship to do more things in Mauritius and beyond.

Do you have any future plans to expand your business interests in Mauritius? If so, in what sectors? Yes, we certainly intend to do more business here. Our forte is retail and business-focused hospitality. We would like to see what we can do in those areas. We need to do a bit more homework first though. From the broader Liberty Group side, I shall certainly be talking to my Liberty Africa colleagues about Mauritius.

You recently visited Mauritius. What are your impressions about the country and particularly your views on Foresite Property and the Rogers Group in general? As I said earlier, I was very impressed. I came for the Mauritius International Investment Forum and I was pleasantly surprised with how well organised and how big it was. I met some very switched on people. As for Rogers, I really do hope we can build a long lasting business relationship together. I like the ethos of the Group. It is clearly very successful and has done many things right and in the right way for a very long time. We like to think that we exhibit similar qualities and also have long-term value creation and contribution to the upliftment of people at the heart of what we do. I see that in the people I met from the Group and it is very encouraging. I think we can do good business together!

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