Laurus Development Partners is setting the standard in real estate development and management in Africa with its first-class team, strategic partners, successful track-record in project delivery and a highly progressive, impactful ethos
“Africa is probably the last true emerging market.
“One in four customers worldwide will be African in 10 years’ time, and estimates suggest that $1.6 billion in additional infrastructure investment will be required annually during this period to accommodate such growth.
“Existing built stock, in the main, is not appropriate in terms of quality or quantity in most asset classes.
“Yet with that as a backcloth, the opportunities here are rather amazing for development companies, particularly when compared to more established markets for which all needs are already relatively satisfied.”
For Peter Young, the opportunity to help address Africa’s growing infrastructure and new-build gap was something of a dream come true.
A love of real estate has seen him enjoy an illustrious career spanning more than 35 years to date, specialising in retail-led, large-scale, mixed-use development and regeneration.
Today he stands as the CEO of Laurus Development Partners – a leading West African property developer.
“Laurus has a great track record,” he explains.
“We develop high quality, efficiently designed, environmentally sustainable projects that deliver value to our investors, occupiers and communities.
We’re a full spectrum developer offering a holistic range of specialisms from preparing client briefs through master planning, built design development, property marketing, leasing, sales and tendering to tenant coordination, AM&FM.
“With a completed development portfolio valued at $1.2 billion, it is our goal to change how real estate development is undertaken in Africa.”
Defined by first class developments
Indeed, Laurus is already well on the way to achieving this ambition.
The company is currently in the process of introducing its Development Management Construction specialism, whereby the company will embed its construction teams within its overall design team and introduce potential constructability issues into initial designs.
“I am of the opinion that the highest risk related to development in this region is construction,” Young states.
“By ensuring the construction team are fully cognisant of the design, specifications, procurement and costs, we can reduce risk massively, and with no need to tender can save valuable programme time.”
Through this approach, it is hoping to improve both pre-construction and construction programmes, as well as deliver projects at more competitive, more certain final costs.
It is consolidating as a one-stop shop provider – a hugely attractive value offering in the African market.
“Many international corporates requiring new real estate developments, whether they’re in retail, hospitality or industrial, are looking for a one-stop shop solution,” Young adds. “They typically only want to deal with a single entity and provide a simple brief for, say, a grade A office building of ‘X’ square metres within budget of ‘Y’ USD.
“They do not want to manage a team of 25 consultants, and there are not many players who will take on such a comprehensive development and construction delivery role. With our structure and expertise, we believe we are best suited for such a position.”
The company’s portfolio is reflective of its esteemed value offering.
To date it has delivered a multitude of flagship projects across West Africa, its work on the Heritage Place office development standing as a prime such example.
“Heritage Place is the only LEED certified office building in Lagos, and one of few in the region,” the Chief Exec reveals. “Its features include rainwater harvesting, passive solar protection, enhanced indoor air quality, office recycling facilities and an efficient comfort cooling system.”
Architecturally, the building is a landmark development in the Nigerian capital, combining striking façade design with eight floors of high-end office space and five floors of parking space, plus meeting rooms, cafes and a reception.
Young himself has also delivered work internationally, including a mixed-use development in Feltham in the UK. The project comprised an ASDA supermarket superstore together with a strong retail line-up, a library, medical centre, residential and offices.
Another significant project completion was Cairo Festival City retail mall.
Young continues: “This at the time was the largest single built structuring building in Africa, standing at 326,000 square metres.
The mall features a comprehensive mix of more than 310 shops including Egypt’s first IKEA, all served by 6,500 parking spaces.
“We worked with Al Futtaim-Carillion and Orascom as joint contractors, and it’s truly a great illustration as to what can be achieved with sound collaboration between development companies and construction contractors, which is so important in Africa.”
Providing employment with purpose
By maintaining consistent quality across each of these projects, Laurus has garnered an unrivalled reputation, and with that reputation has become renowned as a leading soft-landing partner to international corporates looking to set up in Africa.
Beyond projects and its Development Construction Management plans, however, the company is also focussed on bolstering its offering by pursuing a number of alternative initiatives.
Currently it is in advanced discussions with investor funds regarding the facilitation of a local Naira denominated real estate development fund, one that would offer the opportunity to reduce foreign exchange risks in Nigeria and deliver Naira-based leases which are available at more attractive rates to tenants.
Further, it is also looking to acquire incomplete projects or those needing more proactive development in order to increase investment value.
“This is strategic and offers Laurus the opportunity to secure good quality assets at reasonable pricing levels, often within a structure to deliver to the exiting investor a further opportunity to share in the increased value enhancement process,” Young comments.
“Marketing is also going to become an increasing focus for us. We have never previously undertaken any marketing, our growth having been achieved simply by opportunity and proven project delivery, but we’ll be ramping this up moving forward.”
Beyond operational investment, Laurus’s workforce equally stands to benefit greatly from the company’s emphasis on continual improvement.
Not only has the company cultivated a family culture, it also makes daily strides to ensure that its staff are heading in the right direction when it comes to personal development, both locally and internationally.
“We are keen to ensure everyone has a good quality career path,” Young affirms. “We view ourselves as expats that empower the local workforce.
“We are here for the long term and want to give back wherever possible – I believe in performance being rewarded through bonuses and other packages.
“Our best quality staff are those who are originally local, but we have worked in established marketplaces and are now keen to bring that experience back home.
Having a good combination of international expertise and experience as well as a good understanding of local customs is crucial.”
“Africa is probably the last true emerging market. One in four customers worldwide will be African in 10 years’ time, and estimates suggest that $1.6 billion in additional infrastructure investment will be required annually during this period to accommodate such growth”
Grasping the opportunity
In the same light, Laurus likewise takes pride in a plethora of corporate social responsibility efforts.
Beyond the impact it makes with its developments, many of which feature LEED certification or other sustainability credentials, it is now looking to establish training academies on site at some of its major construction projects.
Young explains: “In the construction industry as an example, in Nigeria, there are no colleges or other training establishments for construction trade skills. With this proposal, Laurus would deliver the academic training and classroom facilities, and in turn the contractor has to buy into delivering supervised work experience on site.
“On a typical $100 million project we could provide fantastic real working exposure to some 300 youngsters and would look to take high performers through further accredited courses.”
The recent review of its construction processes is a second such initiative, Laurus now developing cold-rolled steel fabricated panels from hoardings that were previously discarded. These are then donated to assist in community development initiatives, such as the construction of libraries, schools and hospitals.
“In this way, not only are we making a financial profit for our clients, but we’re also able to leave behind a positive legacy to benefit local communities and other stakeholders,” Young adds.
Indeed, this will continue to be the primary objective underpinning Laurus’s entire operation moving forward, the opportunity to further build upon this legacy being particularly promising.
The enterprise is currently holding discussions with several potential investors that could provide equity for its new development pipeline. And while there may be obstacles in this owing to uncertainty, the CEO remains optimistic as a result of the company’s already proven ability in helping to unlock Africa’s potential.
“Despite the risks and challenges we all face in real estate development, I remain confident about the future,” he states as our conversation comes to a close.
“There are huge opportunities in undertaking new developments – infrastructure, new commercial build and residential – and the truth is we need more international developers, contractors and professional consultants.
“Likewise, we need more financial institutions to close the infrastructure gap and overcome the lack of funding, and we’re hopeful that West African governments will work towards creating an environment that is more investor friendly, offering incentives to new corporates to attract such players.”