Property baron says his company will invest R10bn at Baywest Mall
Property mogul Sisa Ngebulana, born in Queenstown, was celebrated on Friday as the Destiny Man December cover star at Fushin Champagne and Tapas Bar at Baywest.
The founder of the Billion Group and mastermind behind Hemingway’s Mall, Mdantsane City, BT Ngebs and Baywest Mall sat down with Weekend Post reporter Siyamtanda Capa for a quick Q&A.
Q: What future investment plans do you have for the Eastern Cape?
A: We are planning to develop precincts around the malls we own, residential apartments and hospitals. It’s a big plan. Baywest presents the largest opportunity of all as we own all the land around it. It’s a 15-year plan and we’re talking a R10-billion investment. We’re starting offices, gyms, lifestyle centres and residential apartments early next year.
Q: How are the risks you took in the province panning out?
A: The gestation period is slightly longer than a normal investment elsewhere, but it’s been good. I think it’s been a worthwhile investment. Baywest has been a star performer.
Q: Would you agree that corruption in the country has played a major role in where we find ourselves, facing a potential downgrade?
A: I would rather not comment on politics, but corruption is bad and something decisive and symbolic needs to be done about it where people are put in jail.
Q: How much does the potential downgrade worry you?
A: I’m a positive person, I think we will rise, this will pass, but I’m hoping not, because any downgrade to junk status means inflation picks up, the currency dies, the rand weakens. If the currency goes down, inflation goes up and gives rise to interest rate hikes. It will be tough for the country and it means that we will start running big budget deficits.
Q: What kind of influence would a downgrade have on your businesses/ the property/retail industries?
A: If the retail sales are down, it means my tenants are going to start suffering. I’m an optimist, I’m hoping that there isn’t a downgrade, and if there is a downgrade that we overcome it easily.
Q: You recently mentioned that you believe black businesses should play a pivotal role in shaping government policy – what would be the best way to go about doing that?
A: I don’t think [it is about] whether black or white should be changing government policy. I do feel there has to be an inclusive process between government and business. I don’t think a particular segment or process should be changing government policy. Business people should stay out of politics but there has to be an environment where we work together.
Q: What competitive advantages do you think the Eastern Cape
A: We have got vast land, farming would be one of them, the car manufacturing industry is very attractive in the Eastern Cape and we need to exploit that and capitalise on it. Tourism is also one of them.
Q: There has been interest in the Eastern Cape as a potential investment area from the Chinese. What do you make of the interest?
A: I don’t believe it’s an Eastern Cape issue, the Chinese are looking for opportunities anywhere in the world. They have identified PE as convenient from a port perspective and infrastructure. They are like any other investors, they will look for opportunity where it suits them best.
Q: How would you suggest young people pursue entrepreneurship, ie what are they not doing right?
A: We are in an environment where people are looking for quick gains and that mentality should stop. People need to know that you have to start small and build up. People want to drive nice cars in five months of doing business, but let that not be the objective.