Saturday, July 11, 2020

One director quits Mogae, Ram’s property company ÔÇô FAR

Atleast one director has so far stepped down from his position as non executive director at a property company owned by former President Festus Mogae and suspended Choppies Enterprises Chief Executive – Ramachandran Ottapathu.

Before Ram’s suspension, the two business partners were both steering the ship at the troubled mass grocery retailer ÔÇô Choppies boardroom.

This week, FAR Properties which boost names such as Farouk Ismail (also sitting at the Choppies board), Vidya Sanooj and Willie Mokgatle as part of its board confirmed that one of its directors – Robert Neill Matthews has parted ways with the company. The reason remains unknown as the statement from the company did not give many details except to state that Matthews’s replacement has already been found.

“Mr Ranjith Priyalal De Silva has been appointed as an Independent Non-Executive Board member of FPC with effect from 6 June 2019”, read part of the statement released to the capital markets late Friday.

Sunday Standard has however been informed that De Silva’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the shareholders of the Company at its next annual general meeting. It is expected that at the said meeting that De Silva will be named as new Chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee of the company.

De Silva, who is a Fellow member of the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants, is a retired Audit Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Botswana having been with the firm for 36 years of which 19 years as a Partner.

FAR property was formed in June 2010 with a view of establishing a portfolio of properties that could answer the requirements of the Choppies Group. Far Property owns over 170 properties in Botswana and South Africa, the majority of them being warehouses and shopping centres where Choppies operates from.

In 2016 the company entered local capital the market through a private placement and public offering of 40 million linked units at P2.57 per linked unit and a subsequent listing of 380 million linked units on the Botswana Stock Exchange Limited (BSEL). At the time of listing at BSEL, FAR property enjoyed relatively high occupancy rates with vacancy levels currently standing in at 1 percent from its property portfolio. Financial analysts however noted at the time that the Choppies Group takes up 50.2 percent of the company’s leased out property which they said presented the company with over exposure to a single tenant.

“This poses a big challenge and risk to future revenues, should Choppies needs for same space change. The majority of shopping malls are anchored by Choppies Supermarkets. The same trend also applies on industrial units which are used for distribution and office purposes. These industrial units are large and sector specific and should that sector go through a downturn, there could be challenges in the rental income for Far Properties”, said Motswedi Securities ÔÇô a local stock brokering firm in 2016.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.