The scourge of poisoned pets

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I WAS just getting my dog out of the back of my van when a bakkie shot past and pulled up at the entrance to the veterinary hospital. Two women and a man tumbled out and dashed to the back, pulling out a dog wrapped in a blanket.

As the man hurried inside with the dog in his arms, I recognised the symptoms: legs jerking wildly, foam dripping from the mouth. One of the women caught my eye.

“Poison?” I mouthed.

“Yes. The bastards!” she flung over her shoulder as she ran to the door.

My heart turned over; I’ve been here before.

I have sat in the passenger seat of a twin cab, clutching the chicken stick as it careens wildly round corners, listening to the dog in the back thrashing in convulsions, her abdomen heaving, mouth foaming, unresponsive, her mind turning inward, disappearing into a deep void of pain and anguish and extremity.

I stood in a corner of the surgery and watched the frantic activity of hands on her body, desperately seeking a vein, trying to get medication into her, the French-accented voice of Eric from the Congo muttering like the rhythm of a train: “Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.”

And then it all stopped. Breaths that no one knew they were holding were expelled in a rush. Hands dropped, dangling helplessly. No one said a word; they’d all been here before, a hundred times, two hundred times, maybe many more. This is the commonest conclusion for dogs loved by disadvantaged people: the anti-climax as the dreadful fight ends in death.

For them, the race against time starts far back – very often the poisoned dog arrives in a wheelbarrow or on a crate in front of a bicycle, propelled by a gasping, sweating boy physically unable to move fast enough for the dog to have a chance of salvation. But even for the pet of a suburban family, the chances of survival are not great. If you find the animal in the early stages; if the vet is open or you’re near an emergency clinic; if the pet is fit and healthy, you have a chance.

Our little puppy has had orthopaedic surgery, so I’ve been in and out of the vet a fair bit, and this is the third poisoning I’ve seen rush through those doors. I’ve previously seen many more thanks to the time I spend with a welfare organisation working in neighbouring townships, where poisoning is an absolute curse.

Four to six kilometres from my door, I can easily buy the poisons that kill dogs in townships and suburbs round here; it’s being sold openly on the streets. It is used to poison rats, which plague the less well-served areas of our cities.

It takes township dogs unawares; they scavenge a piece of likely-looking food and usually die horrible agonising deaths for want of accessible help. It catches the children, sometimes; and it is used as one of the most horrendous suicide methods I’ve ever come across, by people in unbelievable despair, desperate to escape the traps of poverty, pain and depression.

Sometimes farmers poison predators, which are scavenged by vultures, who die too. And it is used by criminals to dispose of dogs that might stand between them and a flat-screen TV.

Many dangerous pesticides like aldicarb (the infamous Two-step or Temik) have long been banned for use in South Africa, but it’s only recently they’ve been banned for possession, says Dr Gerhard Verdoorn of the Griffon Poison Information Centre.

In other words, anyone found with one of the banned poisons on their person or among their possessions today can and should be charged with a crime. It’s a precursor to a crime; not just the poisoning of dogs, or the accidental deaths of children, but also burglaries. (In one recent week, Verdoorn offers as an example, 45 land cruisers were stolen following dog poisonings.)

Why is it that poisons can be readily obtained for a few rand at a hawker’s stall? Because, as is so often the case, we in South Africa have good law but poor to completely absent enforcement; good policy but minimal delivery.

As long as there’s garbage and poor sanitation attracting rats the size of cats, to threaten children and other vulnerable people, those with few other resources will turn to poison for help. If the smuggling, distribution and sale of these poisons goes unpoliced, both accidental and purposeful deaths will happen.

Yes, you can do something

But those of us who live in the suburbs can do something about this. Keep your dogs inside at night. Check your property for baited food when you let them out. Message Dr Verdoorn asking for the information he offers community policing forums on 082 446 8946.

If your animal is poisoned, go to your police station and lay a charge. If the officers on duty balk and refuse to open a case, demand to see the station commander.

If you still get no satisfaction, take names, ranks and personnel numbers and lay a charge with the Independent Police Investigation Directorate (IPID). Don’t throw up your hands at any stage – see it through!

We will not get the police service we deserve unless we make nuisances of ourselves demanding it; and this particular issue is a tree that better-resourced South Africans are well equipped to shake on behalf of all of us.

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From R120m Clifton villa to Top 10 estates in 2017 property round-up

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Cape Town – Despite economic woes and political uncertainty in South Africa, the luxury property market still had some sparkle during 2017.

Cape Town even topped the list of top prime property hotspots in Africa, according to a quarterly report by New World Wealth for the third quarter of 2017. The city’s Atlantic Seaboard suburbs of Clifton and Bantry Bay – which sell at about R82 000/m² – are mentioned in the report.

As the year draws to a close, Fin24 looks back at some of these top end properties which caught the attention not only of those who could afford them, but also of those who just like to look and dream.

1. Clifton villa sold for R120m

In December 2017 a house in Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard suburb of Clifton was sold for R120m.

The property is situated on the slopes of Lion’s Head in Nettleton Road, which is regarded as one of the most expensive residential streets in South Africa. The deal was concluded by Dogon Group Properties and the buyer is South African.

According to Denise Dogon, CEO of Dogon Group, the house has seven levels and six bedrooms. It was designed by award-winning architect Stefan Antoni.

Features include a private cinema, a wine cellar, an office, a gymnasium, a massage room, a steam room, a library, a floating bar, staff accommodation and an infinity pool.

View from the lounge of the home sold for R120m:

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View from the main bedroom of the home sold for R120m:

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Fin24 visited the property earlier in the year.

WATCH: Inside the R120m Clifton home

2. What you get at this R185m Cape Town home

In April 2017 Fin24 reported that a property in Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard suburb of Fresnaye was on the market for a record price of R185m.

The property is situated on a corner plot in Ave Alexandra against the slopes of Lions Head and offers panoramic mountain and sea views.

It has fireplaces throughout, underfloor heating, a gymnasium, plenty of outdoor terraces and a large swimming pool.

The various living rooms include an imperial style dining room and kitchen which has a walk-in fridge.
 
There are five bedroom suites in the main house. The main suite is large and includes a lounge, dressing room and bathroom as well as an adjacent study or office. It opens onto a patio.

There is also a guest cottage with two bedroom suites, a living area and kitchen with a private terrace and swimming pool.

Additional features include staff accommodation and garaging, security features and a guardhouse.

http://www.fin24.com/

3. Da’Realty’s R1.5bn luxury developments in Cape Town

Da’Realty is currently revamping three luxury developments in Cape Town, with a total value of R1.5bn.

The R900m Aurum development involves the redevelopment of the old Ambassador Hotel situated on the rocks in Victoria Road, Bantry Bay, along Cape Town’s exclusive Atlantic Seaboard. It is being redeveloped into eight luxury “presidential penthouses” overlooking the ocean – one per floor.

Another 15 apartments will be developed across the road also form part of the Aurum development.

The Aurum apartments’ prices range from R25m for mountain side apartments up to R130m for sea facing apartments. Sizes range from 125m² to 800m². The development is expected to be completed by winter 2018.  

Da’Realty has only been present in SA for the past three years. Founding president Ahsan Darvesh fell in love with the beauty of Cape Town while studying for his MBA in the city. He was staying at the then Ambassador Hotel, saw it was for sale and decided to open a South African division of the Darvesh family’s global property development company.

Aurum presidential apartments’ bedroom:

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Aurum presidential apartments’ lobby:

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4. Luxury Gauteng property for (just) R26m

On the outskirts of Pretoria a grand homestead was put up for sale on the Mooikloof Equestrian Estate for R26m. The Pretoria East estate is not only the most expensive neighbourhood in Pretoria, but ranks as the top equestrian estate in the country, according to Seeff Property Group.

The palatial 2 291m² home has a double-volume entrance hall and a sweeping staircase. The home has lovely views of the surroundings.

The homestead has generous room sizes. There are seven bedrooms, several living rooms, a glass-enclosed, climate controlled wine cellar, fully fitted bar, private home cinema theatre, a games room and a fitted study.

Grand homestead for sale on the Mooikloof Equestrian Estate for R26m:

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Grand entrance of the homestead:

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Cinema of the grand homestead:

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5. What you get for R45m – R69m in Cape Town’s exclusive Constantia suburb

In Cape Town’s exclusive southern suburb of Constantia Upper the average selling price of a home is R11.6m.

The Mother City is home to nine of the ten richest suburbs in South Africa, Samuel Seeff, chair of the Seeff Property Group told Fin24 earlier and Constantia counts among these top ten most expensive suburbs.

In Seeff’s view, prices have “comfortably” reached R100m to R200m-plus levels on the Atlantic Seaboard in Cape Town, for instance, while top end luxury properties and locations can now range from R185m to R300m.

Mintaka Estate, Constantia:

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Tuscan villa, Constantia:

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Tuscan villa, Constantia bathroom:

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6. R100 000 a night to stay in Cape Town

Holiday makers – both local and international – were prepared to pay up to R100 000 a night to stay in platinum level villas along premium spots in Cape Town last summer.

Dinis Martins, chief operating officer of Seeff Atlantic Seaboard & City Bowl, told Fin24 the rental market is buoyant with strong demand and good rentals, although those very high R100 000-plus rentals are few and far between.

“The market will be busy this year. We are already concluding deals and doing renewals. Rentals now easily range upwards of R20 000 to R30 000 per month, even in Sea Point. Expect to pay upwards of R35 000 to R40 000 in Camps Bay, and of course top end rates in Clifton and Bantry Bay,” said Martins.

7. SA’s 10 most exclusive residential estates revealed

Exclusive Paarl estate Val De Vie was once again rated as South Africa’s top estate in a survey, which reveals where South Africa’s most exclusive residential estates are located.

The survey, by global bank AfrAsia Bank and research group New World Wealth, rated the luxury estates on criteria that included design and space, communal gardens and parks, maintenance, location, security, scenery, activities and facilities.

Val de Vie:

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Steyn City:

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Zimbali:

http://www.fin24.com/

8. Two SA cities on top property list for rich and famous

Cape Town and Johannesburg ranked among the top 50 so-called alpha cities in the world, a survey revealed.

These are cities which are attractive to the ultra-rich when they decide on where to buy luxury real estate in a city, according to the Wealth-X Global Property Handbook. It was compiled in collaboration with Warburg Realty and Barnes International Realty.   

The first edition of the handbook reviews the luxury real estate market and explores the buying habits of the world’s wealthiest people. These ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWs) have a net worth of $30m (about R400m) or more.

The ideal city property must satisfy a range of practical, emotional, and financial considerations.

Cape Town ranks 37th one notch below Dubai (36th). The Mother City’s attractiveness for luxury purchases by the very rich is seen as on a par with Oslo in Norway, Basel in Switzerland and Moscow in Russia.

Johannesburg ranks 46th, just below cities like Sao Paulo in Brazil, Dublin in Ireland, Mumbai in India and Kuwait City in Kuwait, which are collectively in 42nd place.

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Goldman Sachs takes $5bn tax hit

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New York – Goldman Sachs says the US tax reform will cut profit this year by about $5 billion, mainly because of a tax targeting earnings held abroad.

About two-thirds of the hit comes from the repatriation tax, while writing down US deferred tax assets also contributed, the company said in a filing on Friday. The bank also accelerated the delivery of previously granted stock awards to many of its top executives to lower its taxable profit subject to this year’s higher rates.

While bank stocks have rallied on the tax bill’s lower corporate rates, the new law requires charges in the near-term as foreign earnings face taxation and the value of deferred tax assets declines.

Citigroup said it expects a hit of as much as $20bn, while Bank of America will take a $3bn charge and Credit Suisse is at risk of posting a third consecutive annual loss.

The old tax regime allowed companies to defer US taxes until they brought back earnings held abroad. Under the new law, US companies’ overseas income held as cash would be subject to a 15.5% rate, while non-cash holdings would face an 8% rate. Companies can make the payments in eight annual instalments.

READ: Netflix cash bonuses become salary

Goldman Sachs, which gets more than 40% of its revenue outside the US, had $31.2bn in earnings reinvested abroad as of the end of 2016, according to a regulatory filing.

Brian Kleinhanzl, an analyst at investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said in a note on Friday that he’d estimated Goldman Sachs’ total charge from the tax bill would be $3.2bn and that increasing the charge will reduce his estimate for fourth-quarter tangible book value.

Still, “overall we view the signing of the tax bill as a positive for GS and the universal bank group, and we recently increased our estimates to incorporate the tax changes”, he wrote in the note to investors.

Companies have to account for the tax changes in the period in which they were enacted. That’s left corporate accounting departments scrambling after President Donald Trump signed the bill into law last week.

Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein was among managers receiving stock awards that were granted as compensation in years prior to 2017 and were due to be paid next month. The firm made a similar move in 2012 before new tax rates came into effect.

The acceleration results in about $140 million in tax savings for the firm, while the individuals collectively will see a slight benefit, according to a person briefed on the move.

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WATCH: Top 7 financial stories of 2017

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Cape Town – As 2017 nears its end, Fin24’s Liziwe Ndalana looks back at some of the finance stories which dominated news headlines.

From the GuptaLeaks to the downward spiral of Steinhoff, late night Cabinet reshuffles and a volatile rand, 2017 was a year filled with breaking economic news.

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Will we get a smiling poop emoji… ?

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(iStock)

New York – We have a smiling pile of poop. What about one that’s sad?

There’s a loaf of bread and a croissant. But where’s the sliced bagel?

How can our emotional vocabulary be complete without a teddy bear, a lobster, a petri dish or a tooth?

These are the kind of questions that trigger heated debates and verbal bomb tossing – or at least memos with bursts of capital letters – among members of the group burdened with deciding which new emojis make it onto our phones and computer screens each year.

And now more people are getting in on the act.

The Unicode Consortium is tasked with setting the global standard for the icons. It’s a heady responsibility and it can take years from inspiration – Hey, why isn’t there a dumpling? – to a new symbol being added to our phones.

That’s because deciding whether a googly-eyed turd should express a wider range of emotions is not the frivolous undertaking it might appear to be. Picking the newest additions to our roster of cartoonish glyphs, from deciding on their appearance to negotiating rules that allow vampires, but bar Robert Pattinson’s or Dracula’s likeness, actually has consequences for modern communication.

Not since the printing press has something changed written language as much as emojis have, says Lauren Collister, a scholarly communications librarian at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Emoji is one way language is growing,” she says. “When it stops growing and adapting, that’s when a language dies.”

Growing and adapting doesn’t seem like an issue for emojis. The additions for 2017 included gender-neutral characters, a breastfeeding woman and a woman in a hijab.

For better or worse, the expanding vocabulary has given us an emoji movie, emoji short story contests and books written in emoji – someone translated “Moby Dick” into “Emoji Dick.”

In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries declared the “face with tears of joy” emoji its word of the year. New York’s Museum of Modern art has added the original emoji set to its permanent collection. Apple’s pricey iPhone X lets you send animojis, animated emojis that mimic your facial expressions and speak in your voice.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

These tiny pictographs became a part of our online language with the ascent of cellphones, getting their start in Japan in 1999 – “emoji” combines the Japanese words for “picture” or “e” (pronounced “eh”), and “letters”, or “moji” (moh-jee).

At first, there were just 176: simplistic, highly pixelated icons such as a heart, a soccer ball and a rocking horse. Today there are more than a thousand. Because none are taken away, their number only keeps growing.

“Long after you and I are dust in the wind there will be a red wine emoji,” said Mark Davis, the co-founder and president of Unicode Consortium who also works at Google.

Anyone can propose an emoji. But for it to make it to phones and computers, it has to be approved by Unicode. The nonprofit group, mostly made up of people from large tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook, translates emoji into one standard, so that a person in France, for example, can send an emoji or a text message to a person in the US and it will look the same, no matter what brand of phone or operating system they use.

From the proposals to the design, a bevy of rules govern emojis. To submit a proposal to Unicode, you must follow a strict format, in writing, that includes your emoji’s expected usage level, whether it can be used as an archetype, a metaphor for a symbol (a pig face, for example, can mean more than the face of a pig and represent gluttony).

There are many reasons for exclusion, too. Emojis can’t be overly specific, logos or brands, specific people (living or dead) or deities. A swastika wouldn’t be approved either.

Each year, a new version of the Unicode Standard is released. This year we got Unicode 10.0, which adds 8 518 characters, for a total of 136 690. It added the bitcoin symbol, a set of 285 Hentaigana characters used in Japan and support for languages such as Masaram Gondi, used to write Gondi in Central and Southeast India.

And then there’s the dumpling.

AN EMOJI TAKES SHAPE

Back in August 2015, journalist and author Jennifer 8 Lee was texting with her friend Yiying Lu, the graphic designer behind the iconic “fail whale” illustration that used to pop up when Twitter’s network was down.

It dawned on Lee that there was no dumpling emoji.

“There are so many weird Japanese food emoji,” she said, but she didn’t understand how there could be no dumpling. After all, dumplings are almost universal. Think about it – ravioli, empanada, pierogi, potsticker – all dumplings.

The process took almost two years, including research, many meetings and a written, illustrated proposal that reads a bit like an academic paper, complete with research on dumpling history and popularity.

But thanks largely to her efforts, the dumpling emoji was added to the Unicode Standard this year. And as part of her dumpling emoji lobbying, Lee decided to join the Unicode Consortium.

It was an eye-opener.

When she showed up at her first quarterly meeting of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, she expected a big auditorium. Instead, it was just a conference room. Most people there, she said, were “older, white male engineers”, from the big tech companies.

The debates are as esoteric as they are quirky. Should “milk” be in a glass or a carton or a bottle? Pancake or pancakes? Many of the emoji decision-makers are engineers or have linguistic backgrounds, she said, but very few are designers, which can mean limitations on how they think about the images.

As part of their efforts to diversify emojis, Lee and Lu founded Emojination, a group promoting “emoji by the people, for the people.”

While it all started with a dumpling, the group also helped other food, clothing, science and animal emoji, including the woman in the hijab, the sandwich and the fortune cookie.

Emojination has worked with companies like China’s Baidu, GE and the Finnish government to help them submit emoji proposals.

WHAT MAKES THE CUT

But when they proposed the frowning poop, they met with some resistance.

“Will we have a CRYING PILE OF POO next? PILE OF POO WITH TONGUE STICKING OUT? PILE OF POO WITH QUESTION MARKS FOR EYES? PILE OF POO WITH KARAOKE MIC? Will we have to encode a neutral FACELESS PILE OF POO? As an ordinary user, I don’t want this kind of crap on my phone,” wrote Michael Everson, a linguist, typographer, in a memo to the Unicode Technical Committee.

Another member, typographer Andrew West, wasn’t happy with a proposal for a sliced bagel emoji.

“Why are we prioritising bagel over other bread products?” he wrote. Clearly he is not a New Yorker.

Got an idea for an emoji and are willing to fight for it? It’s not too late to submit one for the class of 2019. As for 2018, stay tuned. We’ll know in a few months which ones made the cut. And while there’s a desire to be funny and quirky, the diversity of emojis is a real issue.

Amy Butcher, whose 2015 essay prompted Google to propose emojis to represent women as professionals – and not just brides and polished nails – thinks there’s more work to do.

The Ohio Wesleyan University professor would like to see interracial couples and human in a wheelchair to represent a disabled person, rather than the wheelchair icon one might see on a bathroom door.

“These tiny, insignificant images begin to create an everyday narrative, and it’s deeply problematic that one might consistently find their identity or demographic lacking, or pigeonholed, or altogether absent,” she said.

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London stocks end year on record high

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London – London’s FTSE 100 ended 2017 on a new record high on Friday, on a shortened final day of trading before the New Year break.

The benchmark index of blue-chip shares was boosted once again by strong mining stocks, and closed at 12:30 GMT, up 0.9% at a new closing high of 7 687.77 points, having earlier reached a new intraday record of 7 697.62.

Despite economic headwinds and Brexit-related uncertainties in 2017, the FTSE added 7.6% over the year, with more records set to be broken in 2018, according to analysts.

“The FTSE 100 could launch a concerted attack on the 8 000 mark for the first time in 2018,” said analysts at AJ Bell.

“While issues such as Brexit, an economy that is hardly firing on all cylinders and political risk must not be dismissed, none of these fears are new and the UK market has three things going for it as we enter 2018 – performance, valuation and dividend yield,” they wrote in a note to investors.

Meanwhile in the eurozone, stocks fell back, with Frankfurt’s DAX 30 ending its own shortened session 0.5% lower at 12 917.64.

Dollar under pressure

The CAC 40 in Paris, which for its part continued trading as normal, was 0.1% lower at 5 332.27 points by mid-afternoon.

The dollar remained under pressure as traders cash in on the recent gains fuelled by President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, while most Asian equities were on course to end a strong year on a positive note.

Asia’s biggest markets have enjoyed huge gains over the past year – with Hong Kong up more than a third and Tokyo nearly 20% higher – fuelled by expectations that US President Donald Trump would push through business-friendly measures.

And while he suffered a series of setbacks, Trump managed to finish 2017 with one major legislative achievement – across-the-board tax cuts that include the slashing of corporate rates.

The focus is now on his programme for the next 12 months, with an infrastructure spending bill promised, though there are warnings about his low poll ratings, and mid-term elections in November that could see his Republicans lose the Senate.

Despite the positive news of Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, a stronger economy and improving employment, the dollar has been unable to break away from its peers.

On Friday, the euro was at a one-month high and up more than 13% over the year, while the pound was also in the ascendancy, having added 9% since January.

Most high-yielding currencies including the Australian dollar, South Korean won and Indonesian rupiah were up on Friday.

Tokyo closed 0.1% down, with tech titan SoftBank reversing early gains to end 0.1% off after announcing a deal to take a huge stake in US ride-sharing giant Uber.

Bitcoin edged up almost nine percent above $15 000, having fallen on Thursday on news that South Korea would ban anonymous trading in virtual currencies and crack down on links to money laundering activities.

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Property sector pins hopes on Ramaphosa to boost weak market

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Cape Town – While property sales in Cape Town increased in 2017, Johannesburg experienced a slowdown, according to Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

“Despite plenty of stock available on the market, there is a disparity between what sellers in the current market want for their property and what buyers are prepared to pay,” explained Goslett.

“Even with a slower market, Gauteng still accounted for the lion’s share of property transactions during this year and Johannesburg will continue to be the country’s economic hub.”

Demand in the Western Cape has resulted in property price growth outstripping other regions of the country.

Looking ahead to 2018, Goslett said ratings downgrades by major credit rating agencies could see the Johannesburg market slow further, with finance likely to become more expensive.

Ramaphosa effect

Lew Geffen, chair of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, expects the property market in 2018 to show swift and significant improvement on the back of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as new ANC president.

Samuel Seeff, chair of the Seeff Property Group, meanwhile said the property market has shifted notably over the last 18 months as fall-out from the country’s weak political and economic climate, poor growth and credit downgrades continue.

“Where it was a sellers’ market until early 2016, we have seen a progressive shift in 2017, which has manifested in lower demand, rising stock levels combined with a decline in buyer confidence, flat price growth and deals taking longer to conclude.

“The outcome is that we head into 2018 with a buyers’ market for most areas, even some Cape locations,” said Seeff.

Of concern to him is that there is still a lag on the sellers’ side of the equation with price expectations out of step with the market. The result is an overall weaker market with low levels of liquidity that now favour buyers in most areas.

Seeff noted that the reported slowdown in semigration is also attributable to the slow rate of sales in other provinces combined with high prices in the Western Cape, which has now also put a damper on this market.

Semigration refers to the trend of people relocating, mainly from Gauteng to the Western Cape. 

The mid-market below R2m remains the most active, but very susceptible to financial strain, said Seeff. 

The upper end of the housing market, despite being able to better absorb economic fluctuations, has seen a notable slowdown in Gauteng above R5m, and in the Western Cape above R8m – and in particular above R18m on the Atlantic Seaboard.

The holiday and investment market has also slowed as an inevitable fall-out from the weak confidence levels, he said. 

In his view, the biggest challenge for the economy and market remains the unstable political climate and poor economic decision-making.

In addition to ongoing development across Gauteng, large-scale growth is especially predicted for the northern and north-western suburbs of Johannesburg.

Platforms such as Airbnb, meanwhile, are creating interesting trends in the Sandton property market in particular, he said. 

Property on Monahan Farms (Pam Golding Properties):

A three-bedroom home on Monahan Farm security development in Gauteng. (Pam Golding Properties)

Resilience

Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property group, said it is expected that South Africa’s residential property market will continue to maintain its resilience, reflecting an ongoing healthy appetite for property investment – particularly in major metros and key hubs. 

He said developers are continuing to bring new products to the marketplace across a range of price bands in response to the demand for residential property in key growth nodes in Cape Town, Johannesburg – including the “New North” of Fourways – Pretoria East, the KwaZulu-Natal north coast and Port Elizabeth.

Golding said factors which will continue to fuel activity in the residential property market include an increasing demand for sectional title properties in convenient locations. He also anticipates a continued demand for secure estate living, both freehold and sectional title, as well as homes catering for the growing retirement market.

Bruce Swain, CEO of Leapfrog Property Group, noted that while at present interest rates remain steady, they could come under pressure to increase as the impact of ratings downgrades takes effect.

Swain said there is currently plenty of stock on the market, particularly in the over R2m price range. This is possibly due to a combination of affordability, political uncertainty and the fact that there is on average a 20% gap between sellers’ asking prices and what buyers are prepared to pay.

In terms of property prices, year-on-year increases will struggle to keep up with inflation, in his view. Properties up to R1.5m are in great demand and developers are already targeting this price bracket.

While property prices are showing some decline in general, there are several hotspots around the country that are bucking the trend. These include the Western Cape, Midrand and the Natal north coast.

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Gadfly: Bitcoin hot – unless…

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New York – Bitcoin is hot, except when you compare it with ethereum or litecoin or bitcoin cash or some other digital currencies. Then it’s just lukewarm. And that could be a problem.

The price of ethereum, the second-largest digital currency after bitcoin, is up nearly 9 100% this year to a recent $735. Litecoin is up just more than 5 600%. Bitcoin cash, an offshoot of bitcoin that was introduced just this summer, is already trading at more than $2 400 for each virtual coin.

All of this makes bitcoin’s 1 400% increase this year look puny. And remember that the stock market and probably many 401(k)’s are up a paltry 20%. And you thought you were having a good year.

The reason the steeper climbs of ethereum or litecoin have not received the same attention as bitcoin, or the stock market for that matter, is because they don’t matter as much.

The market cap of ethereum is just more than $70bn, compared with nearly $250 billion for bitcoin and more than $20 trillion for the US stock market. So a 20% rise in the US stock market adds more than $4 trillion in wealth, or 57 times the amount that was created by ethereum’s rise. Bitcoin has added $200bn in wealth this year. 

Still, bitcoin supporters have pointed to the rise of ethereum and litecoin, and now the hundreds of other digital rivals, as good news. It shows that more people are adopting digital currencies and that the technology has the potential to overtake the dollar, gold or other traditional currencies as an investment. And that might be true for the technology, but it could be a problem for everyone who has jumped into bitcoin.

Coinmarketcap.com, a website that tracks bitcoin and its rivals, has a chart that shows their market values. At the beginning of this year, bitcoin made up nearly 90% of the total value, or all of the money that has been invested, in digital currencies.

As of Monday, though, bitcoin’s share had shrunk to just 43%. And the decline appears to be accelerating. It’s lost a third of its market share in December alone.

The problem has to do with one of the main investing arguments for buying bitcoin – that it is a great store of value. But if more and more people are choosing to store the money they put into digital currencies in places other than bitcoin, that raises the question of just how great a store of value bitcoin is.

Another issue is that the amount of bitcoin is supposed to be capped at 21 million, which theoretically should prop up its value. But if other digital currencies are increasingly seen as rivals or even substitutes for bitcoin, then that 21 million cap becomes meaningless.

The good news for bitcoin investors is that it has managed to maintain its dominance over its rivals when it comes to transactions. Just more than 85% of transactions in digital currencies are being done in bitcoin, compared with just 5% for ethereum, despite the recent rise in fees for using bitcoin.

So bitcoin can still make a case that it’s a better means of transaction than its rivals. But when it comes to being a store of value, bitcoin is increasingly being outsold.

*This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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Steinhoff’s Mattress Firm secures $75m credit facility

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Cape Town – Mattress Firm, a US subsidiary of Steinhoff, has secured a new $75m (R920m) credit line from Barclays Bank, which may increase to $225m (R2.7bn). 

The announcement comes amid earlier warnings by Steinhoff [JSE:SNH] that the credit facilities of its 40-odd subsidiaries are increasingly “being suspended or withdrawn by lenders” in the wake of the abrupt resignation of its CEO Markus Jooste, a share price collapse and an independent investigation into its books. 

In a media statement, Mattress Firm said the new credit facility shows the group is on a sound footing. It said it would be used for working capital needs and other general corporate purposes.

“The company intends to upsize the facility via an incremental availability feature to a total aggregate principal amount of up to $225m,” it said. 

“This new credit facility provides independent liquidity and capital to support our strategy, and demonstrates the strength of our business, the value of our assets and the quality of our brands,” stated Ken Murphy, Mattress Firm’s president and CEO.

Steinhoff acquired Mattress Firm for $3.8bn in September 2016, in it largest foray into the US market. The mattress and bedding retailer has 3 300 stores in 49 US states.

The Stellenbosch-headquartered furniture and household goods conglomerate’s share price has fallen by some 90% since December 5, erasing about R180bn in market capitalisation.

At a share price of R4.63 at 11:58 on Friday, the company’s market cap is currently below R20bn.

Taking credit 

Since its share price entered a downward spiral, Steinhoff has been attempting to reassure lenders that its subsidiaries’ businesses are fundamentally sound.

About 40 brands in 30 countries fall under the larger Steinhoff umbrella, including Ackermans, Pep and Tekkie Town in South Africa, pan-European home furnishings company Conforama, and German furniture group Poco. 

Steinhoff
Steinhoff

Its new executive leadership team met for an update with major banks on December 19.

According to a presentation uploaded to Steinhoff’s website, one of the discussion points was that “credit facilities [are] increasingly being suspended or withdrawn by lenders”.

Mattress Firm chairperson Steve Stagner was part of the presentation, according to the document. 

Steinhoff has not yet provided an update on the outcome of the meeting, but Mattress Firm announced its new credit facility a few days after the meeting took place. 

It did not say whether the new credit facility was linked to the meeting.

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