Kekana, who sits at the helm of Pareto Limited, is fast making a name for himself in the commercial property sector as a savvy dealmaker. Pareto is one of South Africa’s largest retail property companies with a portfolio worth more than R25 billion. That portfolio includes some of the country’s most prized regional and super-regional shopping centres, including Menlyn Park, Africa’s largest mall at 177 000m2 and a 25% stake in Sandton City, the continent’s most expensive retail space per square metre.
Pareto is also the full owner of Cresta Shopping Centre, Southgate Mall and Value Market, and Westgate Regional Shopping Centre – all in Johannesburg, The Pavilion in Durban and Mimosa Mall in Bloemfontein. In Cape Town, Pareto owns the majority stake in Tyger Valley Shopping Centre.
Kekana’s major breakthrough came in 2016 after his consortium company, Belelani Capital, bought the 25% Pareto stake from the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF). The deal was funded by merchant lenders, Absa Corporate and Investment Banking and Rand Merchant Bank.
The GEPF, whose assets are managed by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), owned 100% of Pareto prior to the introduction of Belelani Capital as an investor. Belelani Capital’s shareholders are the management and employees of Pareto, the GEPF (on behalf of a broad-based trust to be established) and the Belelani Group.
The groundbreaking deal is one of the largest property transactions ever made in the the country. It is dwarfed only by the R9,7 billion deal in which SA’s largest property group, JSE-listed Growthpoint Properties and the PIC jointly acquired Cape Town’s iconic V&A Waterfront in 2011 from London and Regional Properties and Dubai World. The V&A Waterfront deal also roped black investors.
“In 2012, I bought a 26% stake in property development company Tri-Star, which has a level 9 CIDB grading. That is where I cut my teeth in property development. It hasn’t been plain sailing for me, though; I invested in businesses that failed. For example, I lost money in a ferrochrome operation after iron ore prices dropped,” Kekana admits. He is obviously a man who learns from his mistakes, because it seems there’s no stopping him now.