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updated 6:54 AM SAST, Mar 14, 2031
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ARM boss ousted in UK firm’s board shake-up

Long-serving ARM Cement chief executive Pradeep Paunrana has been ousted in a management shake-up of the troubled company orchestrated by UK sovereign wealth fund CDC Group. CDC, which owns a 42% stake in the troubled Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)-listed cement maker, has also made other key boardroom changes that will see businessman Linus Gitahi take over as chairman.

The management and board changes are seen as CDC’s bid to have a tighter grip on ARM’s operations that have remained in control of the Paunrana family, which founded the manufacturer. The company has in recent months announced changes in its executive suite, further isolating the Paunranas who still hold significant shares in the business.

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Structurally-complex 140 West Street is both timeless and elegant

The ability to make a structurally-complex building appear both elegant and timeless was the driver behind the design of the new 140 West Street commercial development in Sandton, according to Paragon Project Architect Kay Hausler.

Developed by Zenprop, the 27 000 m² of P-grade office space comprises two linked towers on a lush landscaped podium, namely a ten-storey North Tower, a 14-storey South Tower, and eight parking levels. The project achieved a 4 Star Green Office Design V1 from the Green Building Council of South Africa.

“The original brief from the client was that we should design the building to achieve the highest possible green design rating,” Hausler notes. Taking four years in total, of which the construction phase was two years, the aim was for the building to be sensitive in scale and response to the pedestrian zone. It was to be an iconic building that would function as a head office, while still being considerate of its inhabitants and context.

She adds that the client was very open-minded in wanting something “fresh and new, and gave us quite a lot of freedom to explore some somewhat unconventional and custom design elements.” Enriching the internal user experience and the urban environment was achieved by activating the street edge by means of a restaurant; a convenient and beneficial addition to the bustling pedestrian route between the Gautrain Station and the Sandton hub.

Construction was complicated by the fact that access could only be achieved from West Street itself, which made the building process and earthworks tricky. “To get the soil and rock out, we tried something not yet done in South Africa,” Hausler highlights. As opposed to a traditional soil ramp, which is time-consuming to remove, the earthworks contractor used reinforced, recycled shipping containers, stacked like Lego, to create a temporary ramp into the excavated hole that could be removed in three days.

The main architectural feature is the angled, curved-glass atrium enclosure that connects the two towers, allowing for breathtaking views from both inside and outside. The atrium is designed as an internal street, connecting pavement, entrance, atrium, and landscape deck. The internal space hosts large trees, planting, sculptural lighting, and informal canteen seating.

The bridges fan away from one another, so that each is lit naturally from the glass roof above. These bridges are, in essence, large concrete beams that perform a significant structural function of tying the two shear structures of the towers together. The cladding and elongated lighting of these structures has been designed in such a manner that they appear slender and elegant.

This is a complex building that has been designed to look really simple. The floor plates are long and narrow, and curve away from one another. They are orientated north to maximise north light into the work space, as well as to maximise views from each floor. By using post-tensioned slabs and larger perimeter columns, Paragon was able to remove all of the internal columns on the floor plates, creating large open spaces, and maximising flexibility for tenants.

The east and west ends of the building include impressive cantilevers, allowing the building to lean outwards. This is enhanced by the façade ‘wings’ that extend past the ends of the building.

More information at www.paragon.co.za

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South African black property owners want certainty over land reform policy

South Africa's black practitioners in the property development sector have no qualms about an amendment of the Constitution to expropriate land without compensation, but they want certainty over the policy and decisive action if it is to be implemented. 

Nkuli Bogopa, president of the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP), says that government needs to be decisive on the issue of land reform policy for investors to make informed decisions.  "The changes to the Constitution or the amendments that have been proposed, in isolation, will not achieve anything. We think they should always go hand-in-hand with legislative frameworks that make things possible, and they should also go with actual implementation," Bogopa said in an interview with ANA.

"So [land expropriation] should be implemented, and let's execute and let's see what happens going forward. But right now there is so much fear to take decisive action." The land debate took another twist this week after Afrikaner lobby group AfriForum published a list of 195 farms alleged to be on the radar of the ANC-led government for expropriation without compensation. 

Parliament's joint constitutional review committee has completed its countrywide public hearings into the proposed amendment of section 25 of the Constitution, which will pave the way for government to expropriate land without compensation in the public interest. The debate has been a source of great anxiety for many.

Bogopa says SAIBPP, an advocacy group of more than 500 black property practitioners and property owners advocating for socio-economic transformation within the property sector, needs to face these burning issues head on. Bogopa says all stakeholders, including government, civil society and the private sector, need to have all hands on deck to make the land reform policy a success. 

"They mentioned that there was little participation of the financialservices sector and those stakeholders that are critical at the Land Summit, they can't stay away from these conversations and then want to send the wrong message. They have to be in those conversations to unpack how these things should be done so that all stakeholders are able to find balance," Bogopa says.

"Developers are going to be jittery and investors are going to be jittery for as long as we have not unpacked the how. At SAIBPP we are very specific to say urban and spacial transformation is not a new policy, it's there within the Department of Human Settlements, it just needs to be implemented." 

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Nothing succeeds like excess: Dubai plans world’s largest mall

Just when it seemed that the era of jaw-dropping Dubai mega projects was over, the emirate has announced plans for the world’s largest retail space: a vast high-tech mall covering an area of 74ha, the equivalent of 100 football pitches.

The $2bn “Dubai Square” is earmarked for Dubai Creek Harbour and will be more than twice the size of Dubai Mall. It will also be home to the Middle East’s largest Chinatown. The developer is Emaar Properties, which told CNN that the mall would “push the boundaries of modern retail and leisure by drawing on next-generation technology”.

The high-tech features will include a virtual reality park on the ground floor, smart fitting rooms with interactive mirrors, AI-assistants who can make personalised recommendations, and 3D printed clothes. Shoppers will also be able to avoid the check-out queue by buying goods on their mobile phones using special apps, or by barcode-scanning applications and radio-frequency identification tags.  

As well as the shops, there will be a four-lane boulevard lined with cafes and restaurants and other attractions, such as an “Ice Adventure” park.

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Freedom Property subsidiary sells noncore residential units

Zambesa Investments, a wholly owned subsidiary of JSE-listed Freedom Property Fund, has agreed to sell eight residential units and 33 service stands, collectively called Tubatse Homes, in Burgersfort. The purchase consideration is R12.6-million and comprises a deposit of R2.52-million, which is payable by August 20, and the balance of R10.08-million, which is payable by August 27.

Freedom said in a statement on Wednesday that the sale was in line with its strategy of divesting of noncore assets. The proceeds will be used to reduce debt in the group, in particular, mortgage bonds held with Nedbank

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Emira delivers positive FY18 performance with 2.53% distribution increase

Real estate investment trust (Reit) Emira Property Fund’s distributions for the financial year ended June 30, increased by 2.53% year-on-year, despite persistently tough trading conditions. This increase, CFO Greg Booyens said on Wednesday, reaffirms the company’s turnaround and return to positive dividend growth. With its rebalancing and reinvestment strategies “firmly in place and gaining momentum”, he pointed out that Emira plans to further improve on the distribution growth achieved for the current year in its forthcoming financial year.

Emira’s “solid set of results”, CEO Geoff Jennett added, delivered on its market guidance and advanced its strategies of rebalancing its portfolio out of offices and successfully recycling underperforming capital into yield-accretive international investment in the US. During the period, Emira significantly reduced its portfolio vacancies from 5.7% to 3.4%, with office vacancies down substantially from 12.5% to 7.1%. Emira also had a high retention rate of 85% compared with 72% in the previous financial year.

Like-for-like net income growth of 7.5% was achieved on the back of new letting, Jennett noted. However, the rebalancing of the company’s portfolio saw Emira dispose of about R530.6-million of assets at a combined 14.8% premium-to-book value. Of the 13 properties sold, seven were offices, which reduced Emira’s office exposure to 35.7% from 38.7% of the total assets.

Emira’s US investments contributed R22.6-million to its distributable income, and the company intends to continue its steady investment process into the US in the year ahead. Income from Growthpoint Australia (GOZ) decreased by 5.9% for the year owing to Emira having sold down 9% of its holding in GOZ to take advantage of the Australian Reit’s record-high share prices.

It brought the proceeds back to South Africa at a good exchange rate and deployed them into a higher-yielding investment, Jennett said. Locally, however, Emira closed the year with 104 directly held South African properties valued at R12.5-billion and reduced its gross cost-to-income ratio from 37.2% to 36.8%, which Jennett said shows that the company’s income grew faster than its expenses.

Emira further increased its international exposure to 10% of its balance sheet during the year, with its new US investment venture representing 3%. Commenting on the residential sector, Jennett told media on Wednesday that it is a “great diversifier for Emira’s portfolio” and that the company is actively pursuing opportunities to co-invest with sector specialists that cater for the lower middle-class retail residential property markets.

Should suitable opportunities arise, he said Emira will consider other residential conversions, especially since the company is aiming to grow its residential property to between 5% and 10% of its total portfolio. 

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Besix chosen to lead $1.1bn Cameroon dam project

Belgian contractor Besix has been chosen to design and build the $1.1bn Nachtigal dam on the Sanaga River in the centre of Cameroon, about 65km northeast of the capital of Yaoundé. It will work with French infrastructure company Nouvelles Générations d’Entrepreneurs and Morocco’s Société Général des Travaux de Maroc on the project.

Mathieu Dechamps, general manager Besix’ International Business Unit, commented: “We’ve already carried out a number of reference projects in the country. These include the Yaoundé hospital buildings, various ministries, the Pont de l'Enfance bridge, a spillway on the Sanaga River, as well as various docks in the port of Douala.

“With our participation in the Nachtigal hydropower project, we are proud to contribute to the development of sustainable solutions.” The 420MW project is being developed by the Nachtigal Hydro Power Company, a consortium made up of French utility EDF, the State of Cameroon and the International Finance Corporation, a division of the World Bank Group.

The World Bank is putting $300m in loans and guarantees towards the cost of the scheme with the remainder being advanced by a pool of international and local lenders. Work will begin before the end of the year and is expected to last 57 months. When complete it is expected to boost the West African country’s generating capacity by 30%.

Besix will design and build a 2km long, 14m high dam in roller-compacted concrete, as well as digging a 3km supply canal and carrying out the installation of the electrical generating equipment, consisting of seven 60MW turbines) and water intake facilities.

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Maxiwall Pro, the free Terraforce design software is now live!

Terraforce’s new state of the art design software, Maxiwall Pro, a private labelled version of the most comprehensive and widely used Segmental Retaining Wall (SRW) Design software in the industry, the Vespa Mechanical Stabilized Earth (MSE) Design Suite, is now online.

Maxiwall Pro allows Designers to produce complete Wall Designs utilising the award- winning Terraforce line of Concrete Retaining Wall Block (CRB) wall products. With all Block and Geogrid information preloaded, designers can select from a wide range of proven Terraforce systems from easy-to-navigate drop down menus.

Compared to other MSE Design Software options, Maxiwall Pro increases design efficiency, improves accuracy, and promotes a seamless flow of information between design stages and parties. It generates full wall layouts with accurate quantity estimates and comprehensive reports. The Calculation Engine can simultaneously run Static, Seismic, and Internal Compound Stability (ICS) Analysis in accordance to National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA), American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Standard for Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD), AU (Australian Standard), and British Standard Design Methodologies.

With the DXF output feature, CAD cross sections and elevation views are automatically generated and ready to import into AutoCAD. Users of the Maxiwall Pro package will also have an option to purchase a copy of the AWall CAD Tool that allows the user to accurately represent the plan and elevation views of a retaining wall on their grading plan.

AWall takes into account the variable heights along the length of wall, wall batter (inclination), and wall width to generate a plan view, representing the “real” footprint of the wall and can create elevations and generate quantities. Once the Design is complete, Maxiwall Pro also allows you to export the wall geometry, soil conditions, and loading conditions to select Global Stability software programs.

Maxiwall Pro is a professional analysis tool and should be operated by Designers and Engineers that are familiar with the Design Methodologies and well versed in the design of CRB Structures.

Simple, easy to follow Design Tutorials will be provided. These cover the generic version of Vespa MSE Design Software but generally apply to Maxiwall Pro.

Try out the free, state-of-the-art design software, exclusively for Terraforce walls, MAXIWALL PRO:

https://secure.2checkout.com/order/checkout.php?PRODS=4730303&QTY=1&CART=1&CARD=1&AFFILIATE=108569

100% discount Coupon code: USETHEFORCE

Tutorials: www.ctiware.com/tutorials. Please contact us if you need any assistance with the software.

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Kenya and South Africa: two diverging countries

Two prominent sub-Saharan economies are showing “swiftly diverging fortunes” due to their respective political and economic circumstances, according to Mace, the UK-based consultant and construction firm that recently acquired stakes in companies in each country.

Kenya is enjoying increasing growth and confidence after a contested electoral process that resulted in peaceful victory for incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta. Less fortunate is South Africa, where growth is low-to-stagnant, and where President Cyril Ramaphosa is caught between the imperatives of economic reform and winning an election next year, says Mace.

The company made the comments in its latest tender cost update for Sub-Saharan Africa, released 10 August. Mace has been active in Africa, acquiring a stake in Kenyan quantity surveyor YMR in October 2017, and a stake also in MMQS, a South African quantity surveyor, in 2016. In Kenya, its report said, the eventually successful transfer of power in last year’s elections renewed confidence in the government, which bodes well for long-term economic stability and, consequently, its markets.

“As the construction market heats up, the main challenge will be finding financing as the government battles high public debt,” Mace said. At 5.5%, Kenyan GDP growth is forecast to be well above the Sub-Saharan average in 2018 and is expected to remain strong, trending at just under 6% for the medium term, said Mace. Slower inflation in 2018 allowed the central bank to lower interest rates by 0.5% so far to 9.5%, aiding the economy’s expansion, Mace observed.

In contrast, South Africa is still struggling with uncertainty. “The government is stuck between two contradictory objectives – reforming the economy to give confidence to investors, and maintaining popular support in the run-up to the 2019 election,” Mace said. It added: “Whilst slightly recovered from the dismal growth of 2017, the 1.5% South African GDP growth anticipated this year is unlikely to fuel a significant recovery in construction demand.”

More widely, Mace said Sub-Saharan Africa will see strong average growth over the next five years, propelled by the “tailwinds” of rising commodity prices, Chinese investment, and the pull of infrastructure needs.

Mandla Mlangeni, director for MMQS Mace in Kenya, said: “In South Africa, with activity levels slow to pick up despite improved confidence, construction are firms failing as the pipeline of government projects looks increasingly unreliable. Despite growing costs, tender prices will continue to hold at current levels due to the low levels of demand, seeing some erosion in margins.”

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City of Joburg makes 71 inner city properties available for private sector development

Johannesburg executive mayor Herman Mashaba has declared Johannesburg’s inner city open for business by putting 71 properties out to tender for private sector development into mixed-income housing, student accommodation and small businessrental space.

This forms part of City of Joburg’s inner city revitalisation project, which was approved by the council in September 2017. The 71 properties form Phase 2 of the project. Thirteen buildings had been put out to tender in Phase 1, with bids currently being evaluated.

Bids for Phase 2, which is expected to create 5 000 jobs during construction, will close on November 30. The revitalisation project will, over many phases, result in 500 buildings being redeveloped, with between 50 and 100 buildings a year to be put out to tender. Mashaba explained that the project is a multi-targeted initiative incorporating strategies to facilitate revitalisation of the inner city, which should unlock greater economic potential in the city – creating an enabling environment for small businesses to flourish as well as permanent jobs.

“Increased economic growth should already be realised by 2021.” Mashaba added that the city is facing a housing crisis, with an estimated backlog of 300 000, more than 160 000 people on the housing waiting list and with an average of 3 000 people moving into Johannesburg every month.

Other challenges that the city faces include expensive housing– therefore, the bids are required to cater for monthly rental income of between R800 and R1 000, in at least 20% to 30% of the development – as well as deteriorating buildings, syndicate-run or hijacked buildings and crime on the streets. City of Joburg economic development MMC councillor Leah Knott explained that Phase 2 will attract about R2.5-billion worth of investment and that the 71 properties are spread over 35 pockets of space in the city.

Since Johannesburg was established 130 years ago, the inner city has grown to an 18 km2hub, with an estimated 1.8-million households. Africa is expected to be the continent with the highest urbanisation rate between 2020 to 2050. In South Africa, 63% of people live in cities, but this figure will grow to 71% by 2030. Therefore, City of Joburg development planning MMC councillor Reuben Masanganoted, it is vital to ensure proper infrastructure and job creation.

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