Six years after the owners of a site in Żebbuġ made a deal with budget supermarket chain LIDL to develop a new store on the outskirts of the town, the project is finally set to commence in the coming months.

Central Business Centres (CBC) plc’s management confirmed that development works will start in the third quarter of 2023, according to the company’s latest financial statement.

The company initially sought planning approval to replace the SMW Cortis timber factory with a new supermarket stradding Mdina Road and Attard Road in 2018, but vociferous objections by the local council, residents and NGOs drove the Planning Authority to ask the developers to reduce the take-up of land outside the development zone (ODZ).

The revised project was finally granted full approval in 2021.

However, it was only in early 2023 that the Government passed an access road cutting across the property to CBC plc for 65 years, enabling the project to finally go ahead.

In fact, the company notes in its financial statement that management has pinned “certain delays” on “the relevant Government authorities”.

Central Business Centres plc 2022 performance

CBC plc is in the commercial property business, holding and renting out property in Żebbuġ, Gudja, St Julian’s, and Valletta.

Following the success of the ‘Central Business Centre’ brand in its flagship Żebbuġ property, opened in 2011, the company has been seeking to replicate the model in other sites around Malta.

CBC plc registered profit after tax of €179,000 in the year up to 31st December 2022. This is far lower than the €3.4 million registered in 2021 and €3.7 million registered in 2020, although this reflected the fact that there were no property revaluations undertaken in 2022.

In fact, company revenue increased to €1.79 million in 2022 (2021: €1.49 million; 2020: €1.25 million), driving an increase the company’s earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to €1.54 million (2021: €1.31 million; 2020: €1.12 million).

As at the end of 2022, the company obtained 39.1 per cent of its revenue from CBC St Julian’s, and 35.8 per cent from CBC Żebbuġ. CBC Valletta accounted for 17.5 per cent of its revenue, while CBC Gudja made up 7.7 per cent.

The St Julian’s site also includes the Villa Fieres development, due to be completed by Q3 2023.

The Valletta property was purchased in 2021 by means of the company’s latest bond issue. During 2022, its occupancy rate was just 28 per cent, but this is expected to increase to 57 per cent by the end of 2023.

CBC plc is operating this property in accordance with its previous occupational use, that of a shopping complex.

Management has confirmed its intentions to implement significant refurbishment to the Valletta property and embark on a re-branding exercise, with the company noting that ”these processes are currently in discussion”.

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Central Business Centres plc

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Written By

Robert Fenech

Robert is curious about the connections that make the world work, and takes a particular interest in the confluence of economy, environment and justice. He can also be found moonlighting as a butler for his big black cat.