Paradise Found in Mauritius
From its status as a global business hub to its well-established reputation as a prime tourism destination, Mauritius is increasingly viewed by investors as a highly desirable location for permanent or part-time residence.
Welcome to Mauritius. It’s a sunny 29°C in the air and water. Can we offer you a tropical cocktail before you hit the warm white sand for some serious beach lounging? While it comes as no surprise that Mauritius is a favourite with honeymooners and holidaymakers, what’s perhaps less known about the island paradise is that it holds just as much appeal for foreign businessmen and investors. Since the early 2000s when Mauritius first embarked on its initiative to convert former sugarcane land for development purposes, providing investment and employment spin-offs for the local economy and residents, the tropical Indian Ocean island set about 2 000 km off the southeast coast of the African continent has not looked back.
In around 2004, legislation was amended to allow foreign ownership of residential property in terms of what is known as IRS (Integrated Resort Schemes) and subsequently RES (Real Estate Schemes), which enabled foreign investors to own property on the island, thereby acquiring a residence permit with unrestricted access as long as the property is purchased at a value of at least US$500 000.
Many property investors also have established or registered their businesses in Mauritius due to its investor-friendly, low tax base – with personal and corporate income tax of 15% and various other tax benefits. Says Louis van Niekerk, CEO of Royal Park Mauritius, a brand-new mixed-use development recently launched overlooking the bay of Balaclava on the northwest coast.
‘We’ve been extensively involved in a variety of developments since these IRS and RES schemes were first launched in Mauritius, and the success of these projects is also attributable to the fact that investors are additionally protected, as they are issued with a completion guarantee by a reputable bank while the development is being built. Once the sales deed is signed, the buyer can apply for a residence permit and enjoy the benefits of residency from the outset. Then, during the development, payments are made in controlled stages, so from a cash-flow point of view payments are staggered over a 12- to 15-month period while the building is being completed.’
Ideally positioned to do business on an international level, Mauritius remains among the most competitive and successful economies in Africa. ‘As Mauritius has a stable economy and sizeable foreign community – including a fair percentage of South Africans – new home owners taking up permanent residence find the island an inviting environment and social network,’ says Chris Immelman who heads up Pam Golding Properties International and Projects Division.
According to Immelman, most foreign buyers prefer either the west or north coast of the island: ‘These coastlines are arguably the most beautiful, affording postcard-perfect views of the sun setting over the ocean, offset by white sandy beaches.’
Who can invest in Mauritius?
Foreign nationals or non-Mauritian citizens are allowed to work and/or live in Mauritius under three distinct schemes: as a retired noncitizen, irrespective of age and nationality; as a professional; and as an investor. A ‘Work and Live in Mauritius’ department within the Board of Investment (BOI) serves as a single-facing service counter to expedite formalities for individuals and investors setting up in Mauritius. Foreign nationals, investors and non-investors alike may also buy freehold property in Mauritius under the provisions of two specially studied schemes. They are:
1: Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS).
Under the IRS, luxury villas and other residential properties can be sold freehold at a minimum price of US$500 000 to foreigners who, de facto, receive a residence permit. The few IRS villas put on the market so far have proven very popular.
The IRS targets the high-end segment of the international property market, in other words, high net-worth individuals with high purchasing power. The investor may sell the property with no minimum selling price restriction, rent the property, elect tax residency in Mauritius and is free to repatriate funds or revenue raised from the sale or renting of the IRS property.
2: Real Estate Scheme (RES).
Under RES, residential units are sold to non-citizens at no minimum price. However, acquisition of property worth at least US$500 000 entitles the purchaser to a residence permit. This scheme is targeted mainly at those investors, retirees and professionals who want to invest, work and live in Mauritius or for those individuals who want to have a second home or holiday retreat in Mauritius.
What are the tax benefits?
Acknowledged as an ideal environment in which to conduct business, Mauritius offers a low tax jurisdiction and an investor-friendly environment to encourage local and foreign companies to set up a business.
The tax environment in general (not only for foreign investors) is quite favourable. Personal income tax, corporate income tax and value added tax are levied at 15%. In addition, it has no inheritance tax, no capital gains tax, tax free dividends and free repatriation of profits, dividends and capital, with 100% foreign ownership and exemption from customs duty on equipment. What’s more, double taxation agreements have been concluded with over 34 countries, including France, South Africa, the UK, Indian and China, while, according to the Mauritius Board of Investment, similar tax agreements with seven further countries are awaiting ratification.
10 Reasons to invest in Mauritius
1: Social and political stability
2: A strong and diversified economy
3: An educated and bilingual workforce
4: A pool of skilled and qualified professionals
5: A business-friendly environment
6: Preferential access to the international market
7: A modern and reliable infrastructure
8: A comprehensive and forward-looking legal framework
9: A growing international business and financial hub
10: A safe and enjoyable place to work and live
Case study: La Balise Marina
If you’re travelling towards La Morne and its famous dolphin-frequented ‘lagoon’ in relatively undiscovered mountainous southwest of Mauritius, it’s easy to understand the attraction of living here – away from the traditional tourism areas of the island. The road weaves its way along the pretty coastline past small villages where children frolic in rivers and gather to play on the beach with their families in the cooler late-afternoon light. Just past Le Morne, the coast becomes even less populous and the small town of Black River is where the second phase of La Balise Marina is currently in completion. We speak to general manager Dominic Dupont about the challenges of building in this beautiful location, and why there is no other site on the island that will allow another residential marina under the IRS scheme – a deal breaker when assessing potential capital growth of an investment here.
What is unique about the La Balise Marina?
Its exclusivity lies in a combination of three factors:
1: Where the rest of the island’s coastal belt is mainly leasehold, this is freehold land with direct access to the sea and private mooring.
2: After an environmental impact assessment (EIA) it was earmarked as one of the best sites for marina development and is also relatively safe in cyclonic conditions.
3: It complies with IRS guidelines in that it gives access to non-residents (which is allowed only on freehold property).
What precautions were taken during building?
A first in Mauritius, the developers undertook meticulous environmental studies prior to building. The biggest challenge was to simultaneously comply with both the concept recommendations and the constraints of the EIA. The following was undertaken:
- Endemic plants were preserved during building.
- Geotextile screens – with gates to enable free movement of the local fishermen – were installed to prevent any form of river contamination.
- The site and its neighbouring banks have been reinforced to prevent erosion and facilitate the breeding of crabs, worms and small fish.
- The noise level on site is regularly verified by experts. Dredging is done by suction to prevent sediment loss, which may disrupt marine life.
- The entire site and the peripheral lands, including the immediate village, have now been protected from flooding during heavy rains by both huge drains and by raising the site to an average height of 2,1 metres above sea level, which forces any flood water into the canals between the residential units.
- And finally, a monitoring committee, led by the Ministry of Environment, regularly ensures that works are carried out in accordance with established standards.
Construction of the second phase has started and, similarly, every effort is being made to reduce its footprint: only bedrooms are fitted with air-conditioning; solar heating is installed; and LED light bulbs are fitted throughout, including in the pools.
La Balise is a good example of sustainable integration. Tell us why.
Having a social plan is one of the prerequisites of obtaining an IRS certificate. With a budget of approximately Rs29 000 000 (over R10 million), the social plan includes:
- Investment in education and training.
- Improvement in leisure amenities.
- Providing assistance in the fight against drug abuse and related social issues.
We have a good relationship with the fishermen and community with whom we work very closely on a regular basis. This year, for example, 12 skippers obtained their licences thanks to our training plan, bringing the total since the beginning of the programme to more than 46 licensed skippers. We also host environmental days to heighten awareness of protecting our beaches.
How much of a return on investment are the properties?
For the time being, except on ad-hoc basis, most of the rentals are on a long-term basis. A rental service has been proposed by Horizon/VLH, the company appointed by the developers, and the rental pool operation will be launched when the development is complete. Long-term rentals earn an average amount of Rs70 000 per month (approximately R25 000) for owners. We expect this amount to increase to up to Rs100 000 (nearly R36 000) when the development is complete.
For La Balise Marina sales, contact the Mauritius Sales Office on 00230 406 91 60 or, in SA, Rob Hudson of Hayes, Matkovich & Associates on 083 309 0760.
Case study: Royal Park Mauritius
Well positioned on 90 hectares of rural parkland 12 minutes’ from Grand Baie and 15 minutes’ from Port Louis, the new Royal Park development is designed for local and international owners alike. ‘Our initial focus was to sell villa plots earmarked for the local market, and the entire tranche of 244 stands has already been sold, with construction well under way and completion of the first villas anticipated for later this year . The first local villa is, in fact, complete. These units were sold at an average price of four million rupees or the equivalent of approximately R1,2 million,’ says CEO Louis van Niekerk.
The RES project within Royal Park comprises 23 apartments in Mascarene, 25 townhouses in Sandpiper and 19 villas in Savanah, with each enclave of units fully integrated in the development with the locally owned component of villas.
Adds Van Niekerk: ‘Situated on a prime site, this unique residential resort is designed around a new lifestyle and community philosophy, catering for both local and international owners. Essentially value driven, with accessible prices, this inclusive development connects with the true heritage and personality of Mauritius, while providing all the services and facilities expected of a leading residential resort.’
The prices include a furniture ‘deco’ pack. Mascarene apartments are priced from US$550 000 to US$633 000 for 170m2, three bedroom units. Three-bedroom Sandpiper townhouses of 223m2 range from US$650 000 for three-bedrooms to US$950 000 for 300m2 four-bedroom units, while Savanah villas ranging in size from 276m2 to 384m2 are priced from US$1,1 million to US$1,4 million, on erven ranging from 1 290m2 to 2 094m2.
The design style has created modern, versatile spaces that connect with the outdoors, allowing owners to take full advantage of the tropical climate and the island’s landscape. The architecture takes inspiration from Eastern influences, while incorporating local materials and the chic modernity of Western design styles.
Features of the estate include a resort clubhouse that is soon to commence construction, with tennis courts, fitness rooms, gym and restaurant, boathouse with water sports and moorings, as well as the estate’s own Sunseeker yacht, property management and a rental programme (enabling owners to rent out units while not in use), membership of Tamarina Golf Course, a chauffeur service, concierge and 24-hour security.
Apart from the extensive facilities within the estate, Royal Park has created destinations outside the grounds for the benefit of owners, including a beach club in nearby Mont Choisy and a private lodge situated within a 500 hectare nature reserve in Salazie, a 30 minute drive from Royal Park. Furthermore, adjoining Royal Park is the developer’s activity-filled Sunset Beach development, which links the entire development to Mauritius’s famous coastline. This 7,8 hectare site incorporates a 160-metre-long beachfront where a restaurant, bar, wellness centre and spa will be situated for the enjoyment of Royal Park residents.
Finance of an acquisition in Royal Park is available through the developer’s partnership with the Mauritius Commercial Bank.
The RES project within Royal Park is being marketed by Pam Golding Properties International and Projects Division. For information, contact Richard Haller on 021 762 2617 or 083 776 0802.
Case study: La Tourelle Ocean View Vllas
The just-launched La Tourelle Ocean View Villas, an IRS located on the west coast of Mauritius, just minutes’ from Tamarin Bay on the hillside of La Tourelle du Tamarin Mountain, capitalises on its prime, elevated position, with unrivalled vistas across the indigenous foliage to the Indian Ocean and distant mountain ranges.
Says Chris Immelman, MD of Pam Golding Properties International and Projects Division: ‘Having sold all the residential units in Tamarin Golf Estate and Beach Club, located in nearby Tamarin and which was the very first IRS scheme launched in Mauritius, we anticipate a high demand for La Tourelle Ocean View Villas. They are in an extremely sought-after location and are priced from ¤1,1 million for three- or four-bedroom villas.’
A few years ago, Pam Golding Properties also sold out all 40 units in La Tourelle Apartments, which is fully completed and occupies an adjacent site.
Tamarin is known for its beautiful bays and good infrastructure with shops and restaurants, and is popular for surfing, kite-surfing and boating. The west coast is also considered one of the best fishing spots worldwide, especially for big-game fishing. A variety of other sea excursions is available aboard catamarans or speedboats, while lagoons provide an array of tropical underwater scenery and diverse marine life. Riverland Sports Club in Tamarin itself offers a wide range of sports and leisure activities, while there are a number of 18-hole championship golf courses in the area. Tamarin is within a 15-minute drive of the unique seven-coloured earth dunes of Chamarel, among the oldest and most spectacular landmarks of Mauritius. Casela Nature and Leisure Park, with some 140 varieties of birds from around the world and numerous animal species, is also within easy reach and includes walking trails, quad biking, ziplines, hanging bridges and safaris.
Set on eight acres, the first phase of the new development in La Tourelle Ocean View Villas comprises 26 luxury villas, which will blend discreetly into the hillside and are designed to convey the feeling of being suspended between heaven and earth. The units are positioned for maximum privacy and a sense of seclusion.
Ranging in size from 330m2 to 700m2, the villas will also convey a seamless flow between interior and exterior, with outdoor covered terraces and large expanses of glass enabling residents to take maximum advantage of the panoramic views. The architectural style embodies contemporary tropical elegance, with the use of traditional materials and high quality interior finishes. Each villa has the option of being fitted with the latest hi-tech home automation systems, interactive multimedia systems and interactive TV systems. Residents will be able to control lighting, temperature, multimedia and sound systems, shutters and alarm, and will have access to a range of online services. A residents club will also form part of the estate, with a lounge and bar, gymnasium, swimming pool and hammam (Turkish bath).
When completed, La Tourelle Ocean View Villas will comprise a total of 78 units, with construction of the first phase anticipated to commence in mid-2015. With 50 years of experience in property development and key infrastructure projects, the developers of the project are Sunset in Paradise Ltd, part of the Bhunjun Group, which is among the Top 50 companies in Mauritius.
La Tourelle Ocean View Villas is being marketed by Pam Golding Properties International and Projects Division. For information contact Richard Haller on 021 7622617 or 083 776 0802.
From an SA expat’s perspective…
How easy is it for to settle on the island?
For starters, it’s only a four-hour flight back to Joburg, but for some it’s also reassuring to know that if their kids love their Milo and Pronutro, they’re likely to find those and all the familiar SA brands in their local supermarkets on the island. What’s more, the new mall, Bagatelle, at Moka, in the fastest growing central area of the island, is filled with SA retail names (Woolworths, Mr Price, Food Lover’s Market and Pick n Pay, but also Jenni Button and Hilton Weiner alongside the likes of Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren). Excellent transport is provided and many kids happily commute from the coast to the interior of the island to school. But besides the comparable shopping experience, kids who have moved to the island love the lifestyle and seem to slot into schools with relative ease. And as the two daughters of Timo Geldenhuys (sales director at Villas Valriche) unanimously pointed out: ‘Going to school on the bus is the best thing!’
And the pace of the island?
Diane Watkins, head of sales at Espral International, dedicated to La Balise Marina, was a little nervous when she arrived, but says without a doubt that ‘today, I love it for its “mess”. There’s order in the chaos,’ she laughs. ‘It often looks like mayhem but in fact it’s organised – it’s just that there are so many unspoken laws.’ Quatre Bornes and Ébène Cybercity near Moka are dynamic business centres that have witnessed extraordinary construction and growth as banks and businesses have moved in (including the eyecatching, elliptical Mauritius Commercial Bank building), especially in the past few years, but they are easily accessible from all areas of the island, so it’s possible to choose the pace and lifestyle that suits. The long-term vision of the island’s forward-thinking government, according to Sachin Mohabeer, assistant director of the Mauritian Board of Investment, is to reach a target of two million residents in Mauritius – it’s predicted that otherwise, by 2063, the Mauritian population will decline. This parallels Singapore, where there are already over three million foreigners living in a city of over five million residents.
Is there enough to do?
The southwest of the island is particularly good for sports enthusiasts such as Sebastien Bax de Keating of Horizon Holidays, specialists in the rental management of luxury beachfront accommodation. He’s an experienced mountain-biker, and takes off after work into the mountains in the direction of the Black River Gorges National Park, never tiring of the spectacular but challenging terrain, the ideal training ground for the annual Cape Epic race in SA. Besides biking, there’s surfing, sailing, deep-sea fishing, golf, windsurfing, kite-surfing and hiking or walking – all on the doorstep of Black River.
Case study: Villas Valriche
Both IRS developments, Villas Valriche (the luxury IRS project in Bel Ombre) and La Balise Marina, are marketed in SA by SA-based consultancy Hayes, Matkovich & Associates on behalf of the ENL Group (enl.mu), one of the biggest conglomerates in the country and controlled by the well-respected French Mauritian Espitalier-Noël family. According to managing director of Hayes, Matkovich & Associates, Rob Hudson, South Africans are buying property assets in Mauritius ‘as an insurance policy against political security and economic risk at home’. But it’s also good value when compared to some of the Western Cape’s coastal real estate. Both developments launched Phase Two in February 2014 and, according to Gilbert Espitalier-Noël, CEO of ENL, most buyers use IRS acquisitions as holiday homes for a few years, but eventually plan to retire there.
So, what sets Villas Valriche apart?
Residents here love the tranquillity of Domaine de Bel Ombre, a mere 40 minutes’ from the airport and previously covered in sugarcane but now sensitively developed with its own world-class Heritage Golf Club championship course on a rolling hillside that leads down towards the sea. Owners of villas have access to a rental pool managed by Heritage Resorts, as well as to their two five-star hotels positioned along the beautiful stretch of beach below the golf course. This gives them access to sports facilities and the beautiful Residents’ Beach Club, right on the water, plus spas, excellent restaurants and bars, a boat house and water sports. They may also use the concierge service, including a butler and chef for the villas, plus airport transfers and excursions. For families, there are two Kids’ Clubs and a Teenagers’ Club.
For Villas Valriche sales, contact the Mauritius Sales Office on 00230 623 5620 or, in SA, Rob Hudson of Hayes, Matkovich & Associates on 083 309 0760.
- La Balise Marina: labalisemarina.com
- Mauritius Sales Office: 00 230 406 9160
- Rob Hudson of Hayes: 083 309 0760
- Richard Haller: 021 762 2617 or 083 776 0802
- Royal Park: royalpark.mu
- Horizon Holidays: horizon.mu
- La Tourelle Ocean View Villas: latourellevillas.com
- Villas Valriche: villasvalriche.com
Text: Michelle Snaddon and Jocelyn Warrington
Photographs: Michelle Snaddon and Supplied