Kevin Seebaluck: “Ascencia has adopted a tenancy mix to reduce exposure to the economic downturn”
A bond-raising exercise was used to finance Ascencia projects, among which the Bagatelle Mall extension project. Kevin Seebaluck, Head of Finance of Ascencia, sheds light on this method of fund raising. He also speaks about the upcoming project of the company.
Ascencia has raised capital through a bonds issue to fund several of its projects. Should companies have recourse to more issuance of bonds or stock?
Each method of capital raising has its own advantages and disadvantages, be it by way of quasi-equity or debt. The choice highly depends on its present capital structure and numerous adjacent factors, such as risk appetite, growth phase, cash flow requirements and business model. Companies should realise that bonds can also command lower interest rates than bank loans.
We, at Ascencia, take this type of decisions based on our bank covenants, anticipated yield of projects, resulting impact on our debt to equity and loan to value ratios. At the time of the bond raising in December 2020, the conditions prevailing in the capital market were ideal for a raising of bonds. In addition, the Company secured an A+ CARE Rating on its entire debt and this has allowed us to reduce our cost of capital. We have managed to diversify our repayment facilities and optimised our interest payments.
“We are working towards obtention of leed certificate for operations & maintenance
(O & M) for our malls”
An amount of Rs 1.5bn has been raised from local investors through the bond raising. Can you elaborate on the projects which will be implemented this year?
To date, the proceeds of the bond raising have been applied to the development of Decathlon building and the extension of Bagatelle Mall with the revisited wing. Both projects have already been launched. Decathlon is the largest sports retailer in the world and having them in our mall is a huge boost to attracting visitors and improve our tenancy mix.
The revisited wing at Bagatelle Mall, including various shops and the recently launched 42 Market Street, will undoubtedly beef up the shopping offers of the mall. The extension project of Bagatelle Mall is nearing the end with the additional space for Intermart, Burger King’s drivethrough service and additional parking lots which will be launched in the coming months.
Furthermore, it is good to mention that the investment in Bagatelle is in line with our sustainability objectives. 42 Market Street is a not-to-be-missed destination with atypical services, whereby the Mauritian savoir faire is made available to the public. It will contribute further to the growth of the local entrepreneurs.
Also, another project that has been earmarked is the acquisition of the remaining stake in Bo’ Valon Mall to bring its effective shareholding to 100%. Of note, Bo’ Valon was successfully opened in November 2019 and is part of our expansion plan. Other sustainable initiatives have already been initiated such as the sorting at source, the reduction of the energy consumption in malls through the replacement of the HVAC system. We are also working towards obtention of LEED certificate for Operations & Maintenance (O&M) for our malls.
With the current economic crisis, when can we expect an economic recovery?
Our approach is not to wait for an economic recovery but the challenge for us is to be resilient and agile within the evolving economic context. It is obvious that the pandemic has negatively affected the tourism sector and, as a consequence, impacted negatively consumption in the island. The asset manager of Ascencia has adapted our tenancy mix to reduce exposure to the economic downturn, change in customer spending patterns as well as implemented safe shopping measures to attract people in our mall. We are privileged that our asset and property management company, EnAtt, has risen to these challenges and delivered very good results so far for the fund despite the economic downturn.