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Billion Group

Great places, perfect locations

Written by Ben Lobel & Produced by Stuart Shirra

When you think of the Billion Group in South Africa, the first thing you think of is a property development company with opportunity and empowerment at the heart of its values. Indeed, the firm is 100 percent black-owned, and CEO and Founder Sisa Ngebulana has certainly made a huge success of the project, with the balance sheet in particular looking very impressive indeed.
Great places, perfect locations

When you think of the Billion Group in South Africa, the first thing you think of is a property development company with opportunity and empowerment at the heart of its values. Indeed, the firm is 100 percent black-owned, and CEO and Founder Sisa Ngebulana has certainly made a huge success of the project, with the balance sheet in particular looking very impressive indeed. In fact, the measure of the success of Billion Group can easily be seen in the impressive figures - a revenue of R1 billion does not lie.

"We are a real estate company focused on property development ownership and construction," Ngebulana explains. "I started this business about 15 years ago and I used to buy up land, build homes and sell them off, and then started investing in commercial property."

There was a small blip to be encountered, however, when the firm bought interests in coal mining. "We lost a lot of money to those ventures, but we came off that and refocused on property and carried on the development," says Ngebulana. The setback did not faze Ngebulana or alter his vision. The plan partly involved buying commercial properties, and central business districts were on the agenda.

"When everyone was getting out of CBDs we picked up some of those," confirms Ngebulana. However, strategically the firm didn't go to all CBDs.

The Group picked up offices for government use and upgraded those. They bought from life insurance companies and upgraded those too. There were a great many opportunities which were ultimately channelled into other things in the property development, commercial real estate and retail real estate sectors.

MIXED DEVELOPMENTS
So what sort of projects is Billion Group taking on now? Ngebulana explains: "We're now doing mixed use developments where we take bulk land on the peripheries of cities and literally create mini cities with retail as catalysts."

Creating these 'mini cities' paints a picture of a company with designs on huge things in the sector, and there's more: "Obviously, with focus on regional shopping centres that is a catalyst for adjacent land, for corporate parks, industrial residential and so on, so we do serve different purposes, where people can live, work and shop, thus reducing burden on travel , traffic congestion and roads," Ngebulana says.

Retail projects include a regional mall which Billion Group has been developing and constructing in East London, the Hemingways Mall. It is a 75,000 square metre project. The website reveals the scale of the project - it makes for exciting reading, and a lot of very big numbers. There will be 3,600 parking bays, an extended cinema complex, hotel, and casino and conference facility. There will be 280 shops with a mix of national and international retailers offering premier products in the fashion, accessories, restaurants and food spheres.

"Many of our projects will serve a part of the Eastern Cape well," says Ngebulana. "The Eastern Cape is a big contributor to GDP in the country, and we look to open another regional centre around there."

There is also exciting progress when you consider the Group is breaking ground in Pretoria, the second largest city in South Africa. And there is another regional mall that opened last year by the group at Mdantsane, the second largest residential township in South Africa. Billion Group's centre there services the 'inspirational and practical shopping needs of the burgeoning middle class in previously underserviced areas around Buffalo City.' An undertaking of significant magnitude, indeed.

EXPERIENCED PERSONNEL
On the staffing side, things look promising for the Group. "We employ people in the market besides the people we train ourselves," explains Ngebulana. This results in a wide range of experience in the personnel. "We have technical people, quantity surveyors - people from a wide range of experience around. So management teams comply with people who have really seen it and done it," he adds.

"It's good to have that support behind to leverage the product efficiently and effectively in the market. We retain staff; we keep a lot of guys." Indeed, the Group hasn't had staff leaving in the company in general at all. "Two senior people left but then they came back - they realised that we are a better company from the market" says Ngebulana.

The company must be doing a lot right to attract and retain such great representatives of the firm. It is clear that Ngebulana is a man with a clear mission and vision of what he wants to achieve.

"The Billion group is one of those young companies already with a huge balance sheet in SA terms and one of those companies I'd like to think is a great visionary company," he confirms.

"If you talk real estate in South Africa you're always going to hear the Billion name." There is a real feeling that the firm will be the leading real estate company in the country in current times. "And we look forward to becoming a global company in the next 10 years from a real estate perspective," adds Ngebulana.

Construction Digital has every confidence the Group will achieve its goals.

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