JOHANNESBURG – As Realestateweb delves further into the Picvest saga, more distressing information emerges. The latest discovery is that investors in the four most recent (and most valuable) syndications – Highveld 19 to 22 – do not own any property. This is a strange situation for a company whose motto is “Where property is the basis of wealth.”

There is a large amount of money at stake. The total value of the four syndications is R3.5bn. Most of this amount will have been funded by public investors, with a high concentration of senior citizens.  

The lack of ownership is confirmed in the most recent financial statements for the four Highveld syndications. Electronic copies of the financial statements are available to readers on request.

At this stage nobody is willing to tell Realestateweb why the relevant buildings have not been transferred to investors. The syndications Highveld 19-22 were sold to investors between January 2007 and August 2009. There has been ample time to transfer the properties.

It is clear that things did not go according to the plan laid out in the four relevant prospectuses.

Take, for example, the prospectus for Highveld Syndication 21 (also known as Tyger Manor Syndication). This is the largest syndication in the Picvest stable. It is based on 11 buildings with a claimed total value of R1.3bn.

The prospectus could not be clearer. It states: “The company will be the sole owner of the land and buildings.”

It continues: “As soon as sufficient funds are received by ‘Eugene Kruger and Co Attorneys Trust Account’, it will be utilised to enable the syndication to take occupation of the properties. These funds will be drawn on the instruction of PIC as per agreements between PIC and the investors. The unencumbered properties will be transferred into Highveld Syndication No. 21 Ltd.”

Picvest has previously told Realestateweb that Highveld 21 was fully subscribed. So why weren’t the buildings transferred to investors?

Highveld 21 director Ben van der Linde responds: “All the funds for the purchase of the properties were paid to Bosman & Visser. B&V have been put on terms by the directors of the public companies to transfer the properties. You should contact the directors of B&V to answer the question.”

Who is Bosman & Visser?

You’re not alone if you’re wondering how Bosman & Visser (B&V), a private company, fits into the Picvest picture.

The name Bosman & Visser does not appear in the Highveld 21 prospectus as a proposed recipient of investors’ money. A Cipro search reveals that is has two directors: Hendrik Jakobus (Rikus) Myburgh and Frederik Julius (Derik) Reichel. These two gentlemen are also respectively the CEO and financial director of Picvest.

According to Van der Linde, Bosman & Visser is owned by Myburgh.

The first Realestateweb heard of Bosman & Visser was last month when Picvest investors were told they’d have to expect a sharp reduction in their monthly income. The reason for the reduction? Property mogul Nic Georgiou simply turned his back on promises he supposedly made to “guarantee” Picvest investors’ income.

Georgiou’s company, Zephan Properties, is apparently in a dispute with Bosman & Visser, the nature of which, Georgiou allegedly claims, allows him to “cancel” his guarantees.

Georgiou plays an important role in Picvest’s products. Realestateweb has previously reported: “It is clear that almost every facet of an investment in PIC hinges on Georgiou. He sells the buildings to investors, leases them, guarantees them, and even sells the shares to investors via financial advisers.”

Unfortunately Rikus Myburgh, who was previously receptive to media enquiries, has recently gone to ground. He has so far failed to accept an open invitation to explain Picvest’s troubles on Moneyweb Radio. Similarly Myburgh has not accepted a request by this journalist to interview him and Georgiou on the latter’s apparent failure to honour his guarantees.

Myburgh has enlisted the services of public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard. Fleishman’s Kevin Welman tells Realestateweb that Myburgh “is prepared and wants to start engaging with the media more proactively but needs to communicate several things internally first”. He hopes Myburgh will start talking publicly before the middle of this week.

What do investors in Highveld 19-22 own?

The financial statements for Highveld 19-22 disclose the only assets of consequence that are owned by investors are loans to Bosman & Visser. Each syndication owns a loan to Bosman & Visser equivalent to the value of the syndication. The financial statements do not state whether these loans are secured by any assets.

The table below summarises the loans:

Syndication

Prospectus expiry

Loan value

HIGHVELD SYNDICATION NO 19 LTD

23-Jan-07

R 602,000,000

HIGHVELD SYNDICATION NO 20 LTD

4-Dec-07

R 678,900,000

HIGHVELD SYNDICATION NO 21 LTD

8-May-09

R 1,332,000,000

HIGHVELD SYNDICATION NO 22 LTD

10-Aug-09

R 888,000,000

Total

R 3,500,900,000

One of the questions Myburgh will need to answer is why his company owes R3.5bn to investors in Highveld 19-22. The prospectuses of these companies make no provision for investors to loan money to Bosman & Visser.

What about the other, healthier, syndications?

The syndications Highveld 19-22 account for roughly three quarters of the total Picvest portfolio. The remainder, about R1.1bn, is invested in another four, apparently healthier, syndications: Highveld 15-18.

The financial statements of these syndications disclose that investors do actually own buildings. These investors might not be in the same precarious position as those in Highveld 19-22 but they are by no means out of the woods.

Along with investors in Highveld 19-22, those in Highveld 15-18 were recently told that they would have to expect a reduction in their monthly income. The directors of all the Highveld syndication companies, Ben van der Linde and Morkel Steyn, recently admitted that the properties have not been earning enough money to meet the monthly payments that have been made to investors.

The syndication companies have been borrowing the shortfall from Georgiou. This is reflected in the financial statements of each syndication company as a loan from Georgiou’s company, Zephan Properties (formerly Zelpy 2095).

In other words, investors’ capital investment has eroded away as they’ve borrowed money from Georgiou to subsidise unsustainably high monthly payments to themselves. The underlying buildings simply couldn’t generate the income that was promised to investors.

This table summarises the value of buildings held in Highveld 15-18, as well as the money each syndication has borrowed from Georgiou.