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Downturn survival guide
NetAssets.co.za - South Africa
SA's property market is far from being in recession, with prices continuing to rise, albeit at a much slower pace than previously. But the number of sales has fallen by an average of 30% from a year ago as interest rates, seasonal factors and the new National Credit Act squeeze buyers.

The easy profits are evaporating from estate agencies bloated by seven years of boom, and the agencies will have to make painful adjustments to get through the next year or so.

The top three agents, Pam Golding, Remax and Seeff, have the momentum, market presence and resources to make it and possibly increase their market shares. Medium national and large regional agencies like Chas Everitt or Wakefields in Durban, Rawson in Cape Town and Jawitz and Sotheby's in Johannesburg are also likely to survive.

R1bn 'looted' from Land Bank
News24.com - South Africa
Johannesburg - One billion rand was "looted" from the Land Bank, the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs said on Wednesday.

"The amounts reported as 'looted' in the weekend newspapers are inaccurate," said ministry spokesperson Godfrey Mdhluli.

Last week, the Sunday Times reported that top Land Bank officials had siphoned off more than R2bn billion meant for farmers, to fund their close friends' and associates' ventures.
"The bank's exposure to the land for development transactions is about R1bn, which has been disclosed and provided for in the Annual Financial Statements for the 2006/7 financial year.

Mallinicks and Webber Wentzel Bowens announce merger
Mallinicks - South Africa
Webber Wentzel Bowens (WWB), one of South Africa's leading corporate law firms, will merge with Cape Town-based law firm Mallinicks to create one of the largest legal firms in South Africa.

The partners from both law firms have already approved the merger which remains subject to regulatory approval.

The combined firm will start operating from the 1st of March 2008 with over 110 partners and 300 lawyers in total, almost half of whom are women. More than 100 of the lawyers will be black.

Webber Wentzel Bowens' senior partner David Lancaster said, "The combination of the two firms is an especially good fit in terms of practice strength, key markets and culture.

Police probe R600m land deal
Iol.co.za - South Africa
Cape Town police are investigating a corruption complaint while the city council and the Land Claims Commission (LCC) have promised to halt a R600-million deal to sell to developers land at Wingfield that was earmarked for people evicted from Ndabeni years ago.

A member of the Ndabeni Communal Property Trust (NCPT), a trust serving about 500 claimants, and a claimant have asked police to probe the circumstances that led to a pre-sale agreement to sell the land near Maitland for commercial and residential use.

"Two people, allegedly former trustees, are being implicated. We have to conduct a thorough investigation, interview and obtain statements from all relevant people, consult with the DPP (Directorate of Public Prosecutions), and when it is required in terms of the law, make arrests," said police spokesperson Billy Jones.

Estate Agents Assessment Centre launched
RodneyHayter.com - South Africa
Estate agents who want to stay in the industry after 2010 will need to comply with the new educational requirements which are due to be introduced next year, says Vivien Marks, CEO of the recently established Assessment Centre for Estate Agents (ACEA).

The ACEA, which is accredited by the Services SETA, provides the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process which agents will need to complete in order to earn the required educational certificate. Its first RPL workshops will be held in December, at venues convenient for the candidates.

"The Services SETA and its CEO, Ivor Blumenthal, are being very pro-active and supportive," says Marks. "They are financing a pilot project which will enable us to offer free RPL assessments to 500 pre-selected estate agents in the Western Cape. The pilot project will also serve as a sample audit of scarce and critical skills, which will be valuable for planning purposes."

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