On Tuesday I flew to Joburg for business. Boarding my usual redeye Kulula flight, I was struck by the SAA plane parked next to us. The stairs were pulled up but not engaged and the pilots’ windows were frosted by early morning dew. Obviously, that plane was going nowhere and that had been so for some time. Isn’t it sad that two unions could cause that 15000 employees received half their pay and, according to management, the other half and their 13th cheque [?] will be paid next week.
The only thing I can see as good in all of this is that the unions have again highlighted the travesty of management’s incompetence and corruption including poverty, illness-pleading Dudu Myeni and that DPE has stood firm on not funding the business. To the latter point, where the R2bn rescue-package comes from I have no idea.
Property isn’t flying either but in my bones, I feel something is happening. Property is caught up in the economic malaise but I’m really hoping we won’t need business rescue. Reading the latest research, Standard Bank lends some substance to my emotions in their Property Research on 14 November 2019:
Bottom seems in sight — but a long recovery awaits
Nominal house price growth, per our inhouse Standard Bank House Price Index (HPI), ticked up to 4.0% y/y in October, from 3.7% y/y in September. HPI growth was 0.5% m/m, after contracting 0.3% m/m over the same time. Still, house price growth has struggled to grow at rates similar to last years because of SA’s sustained weak economic fundamentals such as rising unemployment rates, labour market uncertainty, and depressed confidence.
You know, coming off a previous month’s negative house price growth, I’ll take anything on the upside. I’m also acutely aware of the previously reported record month in Origination. That flows through to every market player and is such amazing news. In Hermanus, there is something abuzz. From the “dead” and “if only someone would phone in” to “there’s something happening”.
A home was sold to Americans at a good price in the scheme of things. A local paid R6.9m for a 1-bed home on the golf estate. The town is buzzing and occupancies are projected at 80% over Season compared with 30-50% last year. It seems relative social calm and the full dams is having a positive effect. “Bottom seems in sight” is a really good headline from a major bank and it’s a damn side better than we’ve seen for a long time.
The SARB interest rate decision was excellent in my opinion. 0.25% is neither here nor there and at 3/2 in the voting, it was an exceptionally close call. Very interesting to see that FNB Commercial Property called a reduction mainly as a result of benign inflation and no particular cost pressures in the medium-term. Being wrong in these times is not unforgivable as the SARB had to choose conservatism in the light of Ratings gloom.
Last Friday’s negative watch by S&P was a case in point and reading the IMF’s urgency this week leaves no room for doubt as to content and speed of the reforms required to spur growth. We are headed for a fiscal cliff if we don’t cut debt. In my last blog I said SAA was a dry run for Eskom.
In the manner it’s turning out, I am left a little bemused. A salary increase of 5.9% with a promise of the 8% if the specially appointed consultant can find the necessary cost reductions, is half-pregnant. On the other hand, Solidarity’s serving papers for business rescue still need to be responded to by the government. I would be amazed politically if they succeed but commercially, I cannot see any other option than to shut SAA down. “Half-pregnant” is that feeling you get when increases are being given and business rescue to avoid total collapse, is imperative.
Durban, my ex-favourite city, is lifting off. I believe it’s the warm water. FNB believes semi-gration has now moved eastwards; maybe we call it “easti-gration” ☺. Cape Town has had its time but now Durban is the new playground of Gauteng. Spurred on by the easier access of the airport and the new beachfront promenade, property prices may outperform the country. FNB’s Commercial Property Insights of 20 November 2019, talk to the point and even if they’re half-right, residential property will follow commercial property as people are employed. Hold thumbs, every region could do with a lift!
And here’s a thought from ABSA to leave you a little perplexed. In their Homeowner Sentiment Index, 23 October 2019, they have this to say:
Positive sentiment regarding conditions in the South African residential property market was somewhat lower in the third quarter of 2019 compared with the second quarter, despite a cut in lending rates in late July and a rebound in economic growth in the second quarter after a contraction in the first quarter.
To be honest, I’d take anything that started off with “positive sentiment” but it’s a bit of a downer to read that it’s “lower”. I’m feeling more and more that 2019 will be a year of highs and lows. The net result of that is the old story of the half-full glass. Half-full or half-empty? Always the question, the answer of which is loaded with insight and meaning. With it comes the issue of what I can control and what is out of my hands. When I read today that Donald has signed a pro-protesters Bill into law that commits the USA to support the Hong Kong protesters, what am I to do with the fact that it has made China raving mad?
I mean let’s face it, you or I are victims or benefactors in such a global play. All we can really do is decide if it might affect us and how, and then determine to drive our businesses like an upswing is coming until we feel ourselves lifting with the tide. HLJ encourages you. We swim in the same sea and fish in the same ponds.
We have feelings of euphoria and discouragement just like you. But we remain committed to honest, hard-working success and want you to experience that as well.
Have a Kulula moment and fly!