• Monday, May 27, 2024
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Africa’s biggest lender woos Swiss investors to property


FirstRand Limited (FSR), Africa’s largest lender by market value, plans to raise as much as $500 million from Swiss private banks and other investors for a property fund focused on the continent.

Ashburton Investments, the asset-management arm of Johannesburg-based FirstRand, will start raising money when its existing $250 million property fund is 75 percent invested early next year, said CEO Boshoff Grobler. Ashburton put up a fifth of the money for the first fund.

“Investors are looking for growth in their portfolios,” Grobler said Wednesday in an interview in Geneva. “The markets where investors are finding growth has pushed them into Africa.”

While the first property fund invested in Ghana and Nigeria, the next will offer more access to developments in Angola, Africa’s second-biggest oil producer, said Grobler. Ashburton is also starting a private-equity fund of as much as 750 million rand ($67m), focused mainly on South Africa, as it taps the continent’s growth in economies from the Cape to Cairo.

Ashburton has $13.25 billion under management. It sees the greatest appetite for African assets among Swiss, Scandinavian and Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg investors, said Grobler.

The asset manager, which has offices in Johannesburg, Jersey, London, Dubai, Nairobi, Cape Town and Durban, was created last year when FirstRand consolidated investment and consumer units. It is also attracting more clients from Africa’s growing middle class, said FirstRand CEO Sizwe Nxasana.

“Increasingly, as Africa sees the growth of people into the middle and upper classes, they are going to need specialist investment management companies such as Ashburton,” Nxasana said in a separate interview. “Most of the growth happening in South Africa is now driven by the new emerging black middle class. The same applies to other countries.”