Mon | Jun 1, 2020

Guardian teeing up more developments for New Kingston

Published:Friday | March 22, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Guardian Life President Eric Hosin looks across New Kingston from the company’s rooftop in November 2017.

Insurance company Guardian Life broke ground for its second high-rise development in two years, a 176-unit luxury apartment complex costing $4 billion, to be known as The Cambridge.

Its first, the 66-unit Hampshire, located in proximity to the current project in New Kingston, is being finalised for units to be handed over to their owners this year.

Both developments represent investments of $10 billion.

The Hampshire, said Guardian Life President Eric Hosin, was sold out within five days of groundbreaking in 2017. Those units started at $17 million, which buyers financed with mortgages. Those at The Cambridge start in “the low $20 million and go up with the size” of the units, Hosin said. They include super studios, one-bedroom units and eight penthouses, spanning 10 floors on two towers, that have been dubbed the Edge and the Elite.

Guardian Life has operated in Jamaica’s insurance market since 1999. Hosin told the Financial Gleaner that the company’s real estate ventures was well within permissible investment limits, saying they were converting investments held in government paper to fill the need for housing.

“We own a lot of the property in New Kingston. We do have a very significant real estate holding that we have been banking, and we are not just holding it for holding sake. We are going to be developing that. I am committing to that on behalf of our group president and others,” he said.

The two developments are a stone’s throw away from Guardian’s headquarters, which itself is on the outer boundaries of New Kingston.

“We are going to be investing, we are going to be developing, and we are going to be doing much more. People will see a transformation of this entire area. What we have here is unprecedented. There is no land like this. You can live here and walk to New Kingston,” Hosin said.

The new development features a half-acre of amenities – including swimming pool, jogging trail and clubhouse. The site itself spans three acres.

Subscribers to the Hampshire units were mostly individuals, who Hosin claimed have already seen a 40 per cent appreciation in the value of their properties since purchase in 2017.

“The poor pension funds did not have the time to deliberate and calculate,” he said with amusement, when asked if buyers included those institutional investors.

Guardian is funding the projects from internal resources, which will continue as the financing strategy for the other projects to come.

“We are the ones funding the development from our resources and from deposits. For now, that’s the model – we are investing, we are taking the risk,” he said.

Hosin declined to comment on the next project, saying it would be revealed in time.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who was guest speaker at the project launch, said half the working population of Kingston leaves the city at nights and return for the workday – a situation he wants reversed. He encouraged Guardian and other companies to make further investments in housing and other areas of the economy.

Guardian Life Limited achieved net profit of $6.9 billion at year ending December 2018.

Having started out as a US$28.5-million investment in 1999, the group today has a net worth of over US$155 million or just shy of $20 billion in Jamaican dollar terms.

In 2018, the company’s shareholder equity, or net worth, increased 23 per cent, from $18 billion to $19.6 billion.

Hosin said at a recent company awards ceremony that Guardian’s solvency ratio at the end of 2018 was 245 per cent, or 95 percentage points above the regulatory minimum requirement of 150 per cent.