Stocks Going Nowhere Push Biggest Ghana Investor to Property

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Ghana’s state pension fund is investing in office blocks, shopping malls and housing developments as returns in the West African nation’s stock market dry up.

The Social Security and National Insurance Trust plans to increase real estate to 25 percent of its assets over the next three years from 14 percent, according to Noel Addo, general manager for investment and development.

The company, which has the equivalent of $1.7 billion under management, hasn’t bought or sold shares since early 2014 because there isn’t enough choice among the 35 equities on Ghana’s main benchmark.

“It’s a diversification strategy,” Addo said in an interview in Accra, the capital on May 12. “There aren’t too many stocks available in the kind of quantities we need to buy. Investment opportunities in the stock market are limited.”

Ghana’s biggest money manager is making returns of 35 percent to 40 percent on its property investments, Addo said. That compares with an advance of less than 2 percent for the Ghana Stock Exchange Composite Index this year and 5.4 percent in 2014. Demand for real estate has been driven by foreign companies expanding in Ghana after the West African nation became an oil exporter in 2010, according to Broll Ghana Ltd., the country’s largest property manager.

Not Attractive

The stock market is also struggling to compete against other asset classes like Treasury bills, Kofi Yamoah, managing director of the bourse, said in an interview on May 12. Ghana’s benchmark 91-day T-bills yielded more than 25 percent at an auction last week, near a five-year high.

“When you have interest rates that high in an economy, and, the currency is also depreciating, it does not make the stock market attractive,” he said. The cedi’s value has tumbled 19 percent this year, the worst performer among 24 African currencies tracked by Bloomberg. It weakened as much as 1.4 percent on Friday before trading unchanged at 3.9350 per dollar at 2:23 p.m. in Accra.

At least 40 percent of Social Security and National Insurance Trust’s assets are invested in listed stocks, of which banks make up 70 percent, Addo said. The fund wants to reduce the share of financial equities down to 50 percent within five years, part of which will be used to fund the expansion of its real-estate holdings, he said.

The pension fund manager owns about 20 high-rise buildings in Ghana, mainly in Accra, Takoradi and Cape Coast.

Construction of a housing development with more than 600 homes behind the West Hills shopping mall in Accra will begin in about a month and be completed in four years, Addo said. It will be aimed at lower- to middle-income earners. “We want to be able to build something that is affordable for the working class,” he said.

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