Property investment mutual funds (OPCIs): how they work, and their strengths and outlook on the Moroccan market

02/03/2021

Morocco officially launched its property investment mutual funds (OPCIs) on 11 June 2019 at a conference organised by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Omar Senhaji, Head of Societe Generale Securities Services in Morocco (SGSS Morocco), first recalls the main characteristics of OPCIs in Morocco and how they work: “Moroccan OPCIs comply with international standards. They are managed by an accredited asset-management company, and regulated and controlled by independent depositaries and statutory auditors. Particular attention is paid to the valuation of assets, with two independent certified appraisers conducting the valuation and checking it via peer review”. 

According to Nezha Hayat, Chairperson and CEO of the Moroccan Capital Market Authority (AMMC),

the introduction of this new instrument is part of the measures undertaken by the public authorities to mobilise long-term savings and direct them towards financing investment.

But what does this new investment vehicle bring to Morocco’s financial market?

We put this question to Reda Tamsamani, CEO of Nema Capital, an OPCI management company co-created by Societe Generale Morocco and Yamed Capital: “Thanks to OPCIs, investors can now access the benefits of Morocco’s real estate market by acquiring units in an investment scheme whose underlying largely comprises real estate assets, while limiting the constraints related to investment size and concentration as well as the related liquidity risks”.

“OPCIs are also a boon for companies that own their buildings: in particular, they enable them to outsource their real-estate assets available for use, to entrust their management to professionals and to lighten their balance sheets while benefiting from a strict regulatory framework that offers investors a high degree of protection”.

“Finally, OPCIs are a very interesting way for public authorities to expand their offer of financial instruments to serve investors whose appetite for rental property is growing all the time. Real estate is booming in Morocco. In Casablanca, the financial capital, supply continues to rise across all asset classes, offering very attractive yields of 6% to 10% based on our observations”.

Now a year and a half since its launch, has this bold initiative—a first in North Africa—kept all its promises, and what are the trends and outlook for these new collective investment vehicles?

To answer this question, we asked professionals in Casablanca’s financial marketplace.

Farid Soltani, Head of Asset Servicing at the consultancy group Lunalogic, is convinced of the potential offered by OPCIs and stresses the strategic importance of these new funds in Morocco: “These investment vehicles open up new opportunities for Moroccan institutional investors by combining yield, liquidity and tax benefit. They also enable building owner-users to refinance their properties, whether they are corporate headquarters or hotels, for example. We mainly see OPCIs as part of club deals on existing assets, with exemption from taxes and registration fees on contributions in kind to OPCIs providing strong incentives”.

His enthusiasm is shared by Reda Tamsamani: “Drawing new capital to inject into real estate will generate fresh momentum on the property market. OPCIs are an excellent opportunity to dispose of unsold stocks of office space and other large-scale real-estate projects and to diversify the offer targeting professionals (shopping centres, hotels, logistics parks, offices, etc.). They also offer an opportunity to improve the transparency of real-estate transactions, which will from now on be conducted by regulated investment vehicles, and checked by the competent authorities. Players on this market will thus be required to comply with the standards in force and investors’ demands”. 

However, as Mr. Soltani explains, OPCIs are still untapped growth drivers: “To boost their assets under management, Moroccan OPCIs need to go international. This entails units in international currencies and the geographical diversification of investments outside Morocco. For now, most OPCIs have an exclusively domestic target; there is still a long way to go”.

The international market, a challenge many players seem to share.

“The recent OPCIs authorisations granted by the AMMC pave the way for a new investment vehicle that is proving very attractive in other markets”, says Walid Riahi, Senior Real Estate Consultant – Valuation Advisory & Research at JLL Morocco. In his opinion, “Morocco is becoming a strategic target for international investors seeking to diversify their real-estate investment portfolios”.

Attracting new international investors also requires impeccable risk management, and the OPCI depositary plays a key role in checking the regularity of investments and the transparency of these investment vehicles. Mr. Senhaji explains to us how SGSS prepared to incorporate the real-estate asset class into its activities and provide the required asset security: “OPCIs were a key project for our teams in 2020 which required the roll-out of a new module for our depositary application, while ensuring strict separation from our UCITS* transactions. We also developed new operational procedures and trained our dedicated teams on these new investment vehicles. In addition, our internal control system was reviewed in partnership with our risk management colleagues in order to incorporate this new asset class”.

 

*UCITS: Undertaking for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities

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