Chazen China: Companies, Culture, & Companionship

After a week stateside, it’s been hard spending the hours not surrounded by my forty-one closest new friends. I take solace in the late-night texts of “anyone awake?” and “I’m so jetlagged, looking through the pictures for the 50th time.” Yes, it is nice to be in control of my hourly schedule, but the packed days filled with company presentations and cultural immersions are missed. Transitioning back to the daily struggle of foraging for breakfast has me missing the second to none breakfast buffets. Beyond thinking about my new Seoulmates and breakfast dumplings, I’ve had time to reflect on the business lessons I learned.

We hear on certain news stations that Chinese companies have an unfair edge because the government subsidizes private enterprises. A firsthand experience is necessary to understand the extent of this intertwinement. As I referenced in previous posts, the opportunities the government bestowed on particular companies (e.g., free land or buildings and free capital) often defined their success. What was even more fascinating to witness was the lack of conversation around this dynamic. I actually attempted to broach the subject with an executive from Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding Co. by saying: “Apologies that I cannot understand this business fact, maybe it is because I’m too American, but…” After a couple minutes discussing the influence of Chinese government in business, I walked away with no better understanding of my original question. Rather, I started to question myself. Who am I to say their methodology is “wrong”? The American government funds basic scientific research via the NIH and then transfers the technology to private enterprises. The Chinese government funds basic scientific research and then transfers the technology to enterprises in which it maintains significant ownership. Personally, I don’t think this system can succeed in a modern global environment; however, it clearly is working for the businesses we visited.

The other tangible business difference I observed was the Chinese executives’ lack of stage presence when they were speaking to a packed room. This could be credited to the fact that English is often their second or third language. Nevertheless, they didn’t have the same control of the room as the executives I’ve heard speak in Uris. For better or  worse, the Chinese executives with whom we met were calmer, quieter, and humbler. Brilliant, yes, but not evidently able to arouse a crowd or motivate a workforce with a speech.

The Chinese healthcare companies we visited clearly are advancing technology, building business, and saving lives. Nonetheless, there was a consistent layer of the “Chinese way.” Maybe I’ve been too entrenched in American capitalism to recognize tangible examples of the “American way” beyond free market principles, but witnessing a government significantly influencing businesses was unique.

The friends I made and soup dumplings I slurped were unforgettable; however, I keep reminiscing about the inimitable experience of meeting with countless executives and touring their companies’ infrastructure. Executives took time from their busy days to present to us and answer our countless questions. As a business school student, there is no better way to understand a culture than to meet and question the companies growing within the benefits and limitations of that culture.

The Last Days of Chazen China

After a packed Thursday, including an evening alumni cocktail event overlooking the Bund, Friday was our last day of company visits.

Our first stop, Sequoia Capital, needs no introduction. As we walked pass the “Wall of Fame,” which included Paypal, Google, and Apple, we gathered around the conference room to hear Trency Gu eloquently describe the differences between Sequoia US and Sequoia China and TMT and healthcare investing. Unlike the US fund, Sequoia China does not exclusively invest in TMT; it also invests in healthcare, consumer, and industrials. While describing the healthcare investments, Ms. Gu said, “China is very good at the basic research science, but there are major gaps from basic science to translation into application and commercialization. China needs to put more effort into filling that gap, we need to get better at tech transfer.” This gap provides ample investment opportunity for Ms. Gu and Sequoia. After a moment for viewing pictures along the wall of fame, we thanked Ms. Gu for her time and traveled to our last group lunch.

Throughout the whole trip, the members of the Chazen group often found ourselves saying “Why don’t we do this in America,” or “We should bring this back home.” One of our favorites was the mass utilization of Lazy Susans. A Lazy Susan is welcoming in its efficiency, beautiful in its simplicity, and stunning in its functionality. Intellectual conversations are not interrupted by “Alex, can you pass the hoisin sauce?” or “Alex, can you pass the dumplings?” People are not embarrassed to eat the last piece of spicy Szechuan chicken because it is in Ernie’s reach zone, they can merely swirl the Lazy Susan and grab that piece of chicken. Ok, my ode to the Lazy Susan is now complete, had to share.

After lunch, we split into two group for a visit at iZhaohu. One group went to the corporate office and the other went to a care home. At the corporate office, we entered a room filled with flat screens tracking accident rates, the movement of elderly, morning wake up times, and various other metrics. We were shown IoT enabled home furniture and beds to track such metrics, the bed included an “Alexa” like screen that talked to senior citizens. We were impressed by the integration of AI and by all the technical advances on display. During the Q&A sessions we were told many of the objects shown in the promotional videos and in person were merely concepts and yet to be fully integrated. We were also informed that iZhaohu was able to grow from a handful to 70 locations in less than five years because the government provided cheap or free land/housing—another example of the intertwinement of government and private enterprises.

The two Chazen groups switched, and my group was off to the care home to see how much of the technology was implemented. The home is a short-term care facility for the elderly with injuries or those whom need monitoring for three to six months. As we walked through the facility, we saw vast similarities with US care facilities. The home was not for the mases, it was for those that could afford luxury. We were disappointed to see that many of the “wow” aspects of the videos were merely promotional and not implemented. Clearly iZhaohu has valuable ideas and technology, but implementation is not the norm. We look forward to following the iZhaohu story and someday adding their technological ideas to the list of “we should bring this to the US.”

At the end of the iZhaohu tour, we had a goodbye dinner for our fearless faculty advisor, Lorraine Marchand. Afterwards, it was time to entrench ourselves in the local culture and blow off some steam. We went out on the town and bonded as a group on the dancefloor and later in room 1012 over some late-night snacks. The next morning, a thin crew went sightseeing, but in the afternoon, almost everyone came to the lobby of the Shanghai Tower for the 45.8 mph elevator ride to the 118th floor observatory, 1791 feet in the air. We were fortunate that the smog and clouds were gone that day and we could see far into the distance. This was the last planned group event; standing on top of the world’s second largest building was a great way to conclude a wonderful trip.

Immersing in Chinese Healthcare Companies

After an epic day of sightseeing, we checked out of our hotel and headed to our last office visit in Beijing: DIH Technologies (“DIH”).

The pre-arrival bus discussion focused on how the scope, size, and geographic reach of DIH was not clear via publicly available information. The group was intrigued by how a company could focus on pharma and physical rehab innovation.

However, once we poured into DIH’s massive boardroom, our doubts were quickly squashed. The presenters explained the various rehabilitation machines and the separate pharmacy delivery machinery (the “Pharma Division” was more of a pill dispensing robotic division). We learned that DIH is indeed a global company with offices in Boston, Switzerland, and Hong Kong.

As with many growth stage healthcare companies, DIH referenced innovative use cases for artificial intelligence (“AI”) in combination with their currently available machinery. Typically, I roll my eyes when a company dedicates a significant amount of a company introduction to AI; while it has the capacity to be revolutionary, the revolution is not happening yet. However, there was something different about DIH. Maybe it was the numerous use cases or the multiple video clip examples, but it felt as if DIH’s AI revolution was just around the corner while most companies were barely ready to start. DIH believes that rehabilitation from injury should be a full body experience facilitated by their 360-degree full screen. AI puts the patient in the real world and has them perform tasks in a controlled environment (typically wearing a harness to avoid falling).

We left the boardroom  and wrapped up our visit with a quick show room tour of the various machines. Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”) cares greatly about how the body interacts with the environment and this is a focus of DIH. Rehabilitation has always been a focus of TCM and it appears DIH will have a place in the rehabilitation ecosystem for many years to come.

Before boarding the bullet train to our next destination, we scattered around the train station for traditional train station food, Pizza Hut and McDonalds. After a clean, smooth, and enjoyable ride (a.k.a., the anti-Amtrak) we arrived in Shanghai. With no group dinner planned, we split up to dine at various locations and get a good night sleep before a packed day filled with three company visits.

The first stop was Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding Co Ltd (“SPH”), China’s number two pharmaceutical company. Many of us tangentially knew about SPH, roughly an $8 billion market cap, but walked away with a detailed understanding of how a Shanghai/HK dually listed publicly traded company that is 33.6% owned by the State operates in China. Regardless of the minority ownership, the State controls the board and thus, controls the company. The State, specifically the mayor of Shanghai’s office, must approve purchases above 300 million RMB. Regardless of this intertwinement of government and industry, SPH appears to be a successful pharmaceutical R&D, manufacturing, and distribution company. SPH might have the word “Shanghai” in its title, but it is a global firm with offices in San Diego and Philadelphia. Many pharma companies are global companies with headquarters in a certain location and domiciled in a certain country, but have a global culture, SPH clearly hopes to mimic such a model.

After a quick lunch, we headed to Lily Asia Ventures (“LAV”), one of the biggest early stage biotech-focused VC firms in China. Founded in 2008 as the corporate venture arm of Eli Lilly, it is now completely independent of its former pharma parent. There were rumblings that the Chazen group was feeling the angst of “case withdrawal” after a week away from school; fortunately LAV understood the needs of a business school audience and prepared three case studies to present. LAV did a phenomenal job at walking the group through actual investment theses without losing the group in deep scientific details. After learning about the biotech investing side in China, it was time to visit the Chinese arm of one of America’s innovative biotech companies.

Fosun Pharma (“Fosun”) is an integrated healthcare company with pharmaceutical, distribution, device, and aesthetic divisions. We met with the CEO of FosunKite, Fuson’s joint venture with Kite Pharma, part of Gilead Sciences after its August 2017 acquisition for $12 billion. Kite’s Yescarta is approved in the US; FosunKite is diligently working for CFDA approval. We learned the similarities and differences of the Chinese regulatory body. The CEO described how FosunKite is not merely a Yescarta in-licensed company, but also they are an R&D enterprise leveraging the intellectual talent of the Chinese universities and organizations. The group debated the cost of Yescarta, specifically where cost reduction could occur, and whether the Chinese market would react differently than the US market if a similar $375k list price is published. FosunKite provided a strong understanding of how an American biotechnology can symbiotically partner with a Chinese healthcare conglomerate. Based on what the Chazen group witnessed, many US companies would want to form similar ventures as FosunKite.

At the Very Center of Healthcare

China is a long distance from the Very Center of Business. The China Chazen group reunited for dinner on Sunday for a traditional Chinese dinner, lazy Susan included. We were excited to be together, but the energy was low because of a 10-hour tarmac delay on our flights and The Octagon. Regardless, we were looking forward to the real start to the trip, Monday morning’s first company visit.

We knew our anticipation was tangible when the Chazen leader complimented us on being on time for the morning bus. Our first stop was United Family Healthcare (“UFH”), China’s first US accredited hospital, founded by CBS alumni Roberta Lipson ‘78. For those of us that have spent time in hospitals, UFH appeared to be the same as any other US hospital. It was evident that Roberta’s business model was founded on importing the “American way” to the hospital (e.g., first hospital to broadly use Purell, first hospital to implement privacy dividers at the pharmacy, first hospital with a crash cart on each floor).

Roberta’s father-in-law died in a Chinese hospital when the physicians could not find the correct sized tube for incubation. Therefore, she’s made a number of innovations in her own hospital. For example, including a plastic, easily breakable lock on the crash cart to manage inventory throughout UFH. When something is removed from the crash cart, the lock is broken, which signals that inventory needs to be replenished. The simple lock is now implemented in numerous hospitals throughout China.

Roberta didn’t merely import da Vinci machines and Siemens MRI machines, she also imported a mindset far removed from the traditional hierarchical Chinese structure. UFH empowers nurses and pharmacists to question the physicians and express their views. Traditionally, in China, the physician’s word is taken as gospel and is not questioned. Roberta brought the American way to Chinese hospitals, but UFH needs to balance western medicine with the deep-rooted desire for traditional Chinese medicine (“TCM”). Roberta mentioned the difficulties of educating her patients on Western medicine. They utilize TCM as an adjunct therapy, not as a monotherapy. UFH can provide better care to their patients via the combination of imported western medicine and TCM.

Tuesday was a sightseeing day for the ages. As we walked pass the countless number of cameras, we entered Tiananmen Square and were amazed by the history of the place. We spent time taking pictures and admiring the omnipresent oil painting of Chairman Mao. As we posed for the group picture, Batman (our local tour guide) quickly sprung into action, leveraged his utility belt, and intercepted our CBS Chazen banner. He shook in fear at the thought of explaining to the Chinese military that “Chazen” was Columbia Business School’s institute for global business and not propaganda promoting revolutionary acts against the government.

After Tiananmen Square, we were off to the Forbidden City to walk through centuries-old history that makes American history seem pediatric. After a bus ride and a quick lunch, it was time for the big kahuna, the main reason millions of yearly tourists visit Beijing: the Great Wall. No smog-filled sky could keep us from walking on one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Logistics Now, China Later

              Tis the season of Columbia Chazen pre-trip meetings. While most groups are likely discussing the logistics of visiting vineyards in South America and the hippest restaurants in London, the China Healthcare Trip students had a very different conversation. Over delicious sesame noodles and dumplings at Han Dynasty restaurant, we chatted about the logistics of VPNs, the high security frisking students received while picking up visas, the annoyance of Facebook being blocked, and the necessity of avoiding sensitive government-related conversations. When we placed our Chazen bid points on the China Healthcare tour, we knew China would bring different logistical aspects. Nonetheless, the opportunity to meet with Lilly Asia, Shanghai Pharma, and Sequoia (to name a few healthcare companies) and have firsthand experience in the country referenced in all our classes seemed worth all the “hassle” of visiting a communist country.

              Admittingly, I am a healthcare nerd: since sophomore year of College, I’ve catered my academic and career choices towards the healthcare sector. Bias aside, the company visits on our upcoming trip are nothing short of impressive. Pharmaceutical, digital health, hospitals, and rehabilitation companies provide a diverse emergence into the Chinese healthcare industry. Now would be an appropriate time to publicly thank our hosts Chloe Li, Mingming Wu, and Tiffany Zhao. Without them, we would not be able to visit such a line up of companies. Maor Cohen and Daniyal Hussain deserve public acknowledgement for their leadership and dedication to bringing this trip to fruition.

              Some of us are lucky enough to make a pit stop in Seoul, Korea before the group reunites at the Renaissance Beijing Wangfujing Hotel on March 17th. We will spend the afternoon adjusting to the culture and walking around Beijing. We will start our company visits on Monday morning with a visit to United Family Healthcare. Stay tuned!

The Experiential Real Estate of Shanghai

Strike up a conversation with any real estate professional and soon enough the “death of retail” topic will come up. Slightly exaggerated, perhaps, but retailers and the real estate they occupy are facing significant challenges as e-commerce continues to evolve. One message that we received again and again from the real estate experts that we met in China was that bricks and mortar retailers have already gone through many of the growing pains associated with e-commerce and learned the importance of “experiential retail” years before it became a buzzword in the US.

One of our first meetings in Shanghai was with Value Retail at their newly opened Shanghai Village. Located near the Shanghai Disney Resort, the luxury outlet mall is well positioned to attract nearby tourists. Meeting with Caleb Perrin, a Columbia MSRED graduate, and Lillian Cheng, it was clear that value proposition of Shanghai Village was hospitality and experience, rather than just providing a retail offering.

Our hosts began our tour with a discussion in the VIP hospitality room where shopping guest can relax, enjoy refreshments and have a concierge assist them with anything. Shoppers could also register so their purchases will be sent to concierge to be picked up at the end of the day or shipped directly to their home, staving off fatigue from hauling around heavy shopping bags. Boutiques were spacious and uncluttered, reminding us more of 5th Avenue retailers rather than a typical US outlet mall. The one design challenge that our group noticed was the open-air concept. While common in US and European outlet shopping centers, poor weather and air quality keeps customers away. We visited Shanghai Village on a rainy weekday and noticed very few shoppers around.

We built on our experiential retail tour with a tour of Swire’s HKRI Taikoo Hui, a mixed-use development in Shanghai’s vibrant Jing’an District with two office buildings, a retail mall, and three hotels / serviced apartments. The luxury boutiques are well-suited to the high-end neighborhood and contains the world’s largest Starbucks (29,000 square feet). The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a highly experiential concept. The spaces doubles as a coffee factory and guests can learn about the roasting and brewing process while tasting coffees from all over the world. While coffee shops are not as vulnerable as fashion retailers to e-commerce, the Starbucks Reserve serves as a major draw to both locals and tourists for the shopping center.

Robin Lore ’19

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The group touring Shanghai Village

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The group touring Shanghai Village

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World’s largest Starbucks in Taikoo Hui

Hong Kong Real Estate Development, Transit-Oriented by Nature

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Above: Real Estate students meeting with MTR outside of the International Commerce Centre at Kowloon Station, Hong Kong

Coming from New York City, we know what it is like to live in a highly populated and dense city. Fitting its 7.4 million residents into just over 1,100 square kilometers is remarkable and this stat becomes mind-boggling when you realize that three-quarters of Hong Kong’s land is green. Of course this results in extremely high rents and prices (even by New York standards) and it also results in innovative developments to cope with the severe lack of developable land.

One of the most innovative development models that we have encountered on our real estate focused trek has been the Rail + Property model implemented by the MTR (Hong Kong’s mass transit railway). With the expressed purpose of capturing the value creation that a new railway line will have on the surrounding land, the publicly-traded MTR is able to operate at a profit. When the MTR develops a new line, they obtain land development rights from the Hong Kong government. They then work with a development partner to build on top of the station site and share in a portion of the development profits, usually by receiving a % of profits, a fixed lump sum, or a portion of the properties built on the station. In fact, the vast majority of profits earned by the MTR is from the management of assets developed as part of the Rail + Property model. While many cities have been focused on transit-oriented development over the past few years, Hong Kong and the MTR have been building on and around transportation centers for decades. Approximately half of all subway stations have a development on top. As we learned from MTR (and experienced as we moved around the city on our own) the MTR is exceptionally well-run and clean with over 99.9% of trains running on time.

Following our discussion with Kelson Chan, Strategy and Planning Manager, and Steve Yiu, Principal Advisor, Property Planning, we toured a prime example of the Rail + Property model at Kowloon Station, one of Hong Kong’s most busy subway stations. The station is complete with underground retail and is the site of the International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong’s tallest tower.

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Above: Kowloon Station, Hong Kong

The MTR is a relatively new public transportation system and was established in the 1970s. Building an extensive subway system like Hong Kong’s is a daunting task especially when you consider the financial challenges that many public transportation systems face (MTA riders – sound familiar?) The Rail + Property model efficiently allows for the capture of value increase resulting form investments made in infrastructure. Hong Kong’s highly dense population and low car-ownership makes this city the perfect location for this type of model. It will be interesting to see how this model can be adapted in other cities.

Flying into China’s real estate market as Chinese investors pull back from the US

Over the past few years, no group of investors have made a bigger mark in the US Real Estate market than the Chinese. From Chinese airline turned global conglomerate, HNA, to insurance company turned investor, Anbang, as well as conglomerate Wanda, these Chinese investors have been buying up some of the biggest trophy properties in the United States including the Waldorf Astoria, 245 Park Avenue and other large office and hotel properties. These investors were scooping up prize properties across the country and partnering with some of New York’s most established companies.

The Chinese government, concerned about potentially risky overseas investments and capital outflows, began to enact capital controls in November 2016. Chinese investment in the US began to slow but large acquisitions continued, such as HNA’s $2.21 billion purchase of 245 Park in May 2017.

However, the clampdown as come to a head in the past few weeks. Anbang was seized by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission for at least a year on February 23rd following the indictment of the firm’s chairman, Wu Xiaohui, who was charged with financial fraud, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. HNA is facing a debt crisis with $20 billion of bonds expiring in the next two years. Their credit profile has been lowered from b to ccc+ by S&P Global and the group has turned to employees to raise debt. In February 2018, HNA put 245 Park, the crown jewel of its estimated $14 billion real estate portfolio, for sale along with other US assets for $4 billion.

From March 11th to 18th, a group of 30 CBS students will meet with real estate companies in Hong Kong and Shanghai. While none of these aforementioned tumultuous and notoriously secretive companies have agreed to meet with us, there is an impressive line up of investors, developers and operators that will talk to our group about investments happening within Asia and hopefully offer an insider’s perspective on foreign investment crackdown.

Robin Lore ’19

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Ready to Explore Growth Opportunities in China

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In a few short hours, 30 of us will commence a trip of a lifetime learning first-hand about the latest developments in the Chinese Economy and exploring business opportunities in Shenzhen, China (aka the Silicon Valley of Hardware) and Hong Kong. Our research proposals and interest in the Chinese economy are as diverse as we are – from launching a local beer company to exploring clean energy opportunities and to developing e-commerce businesses across various industries.

In preparing for this excursion, we had the opportunity to learn more about the Chinese Economy from Professor Shang-Jin Wei. He notes that “China is not only the world’s largest manufacturing exporter, but has emerged to have the largest digital economy as well. China has been the largest single country contributor to global GDP growth since 2001 currently at 9%, but is facing pressures from a rising labor cost and a shrinking labor force. “Everything is possible, but nothing is easy” is an apt description that speaks to both enormous opportunities and massive challenges present in this economy.”

In order to be well equipped to complete our report following the trip, a robust agenda has been prepared –  In between a lot of dinners and sightseeing, we will visit the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority as well as select leading companies in various industries – internet, telecoms, hardware. We will also have some free time for self-arranged meetings.

Our preparation has been very useful to guide us on how to take full advantage of this trip and we are very excited and ready to explore growth opportunities in this transforming economy. Stay tuned!

 

Eniola Abimbola ‘18

Learn more about the Laidlaw Chazen Travel Fund here

 

CBS Chazen South Africa 4.0

The last two days in Capetown were filled with memorable moments, great people, and we all wish they lasted a bit longer. We toured the V&A Waterfront with members from the Green Building Council, discussed sustainability with Allan Gray Investment Management, visited a local development firm, hiked a 3,600-ft peak, enjoyed wine tastings in Constantia & Steenberg and took plenty of advantage of the coastal night life.

Firstly, our group received a presentation of the V&A waterfront from Colin Devenish, Executive Manager of Operations and a member of the Green Building Council. The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) waterfront is a mixed-use complex located on the Atlantic Shore, in Table Bay Harbor. Designed in the late 19th century, the complex is situated in South Africa’s oldest working harbor and comprises over 300 acres developed for both residential and commercial use. In light of the size and high utilization rate (over 23 million of annual visitors), we were pleased to learn the steps that management has been taking to reduce its footprint since 2008. To-date, the waterfront has invested R45 Million into energy efficiency, water savings and waste recycling across the 300-acre property, as well as introduced a number of other greening initiatives across the area. Efforts such as these have allowed the waterfront to nearly halve its waste going to landfills, significantly reduce electricity and water consumption and increased recycling and lower carbon emissions due to increased use of bicycles and public transportation.

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On the note of sustainability, our group had the pleasure of touring the headquarters of Allan Gray with Michael Smith, Department Head of Infrastructure and Security at the company. Headquartered in Silo One at the V&A Waterfront, Allan Gray’s office was built in 2014 and achieved the first ever six-star green rating in South Africa. We were delighted to hear that the modern building incorporates features such as high-performance, fully-glazed, double skin glass façade to optimize the use of natural lighting and advanced cooling system that rely on cold Atlantic seawater. Furthermore, the heat from the IT server room provides floor heating in the reception area while waste water from hand wash basins and showers is collected, treated within the grey water system, and reused for flushing water. A beautiful anchor to the waterfront, this visionary project has stunning views of Cape Town and of the surrounding harbor.

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Having witnessed the remarkable success of the Allan Gray headquarters development at V&A, our team headed to Devmark Property Group, a development firm in the Western Cape specializing in mixed-use projects across all asset classes. The firm owns all aspects of the development process from land acquisition to entitlement, development, construction and marketing. The firm’s pipeline encompasses investments such as a 1,000-unit integrated housing project, 111 luxury home and 54 assisted living facilities as well as a full-scale R3bn retail development in the Western Cape. Playing off its 30-year old local advantage, Devmark analyzes opportunities in the region with an eye toward demographic trends in urbanization and capital migration.

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Last, but not least, we had a lot of fun in Cape Town. Hiking up Table Mountain at 7 AM after a night of successive pub crawls gave each of us the opportunity to test our limits physically while enjoying the pristine views of the Cape Town skyline. Fittingly, our trip concluded driving along the coast right before the dawn. We stopped the bus to watch the sunset, gathered around, reminisced the memorable times we had had over the past few days and celebrated being in the moment with yet another standing ovation to Africa, a land of stunning natural beauty and fascination for all things (not just Real Estate). Good bye, South Africa and see you soon!DJI_0010.jpg