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The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) banned Access Real Estate (ARE) from opening a current account in any bank operating in the country following the recent unfolding debacle
between the company and its customers. NBE’s letter, addressed to all commercial banks in the country, gave notice that they are forbidden from opening a current account for ARE as the company has endorsed faulty cheques to numerous clients that have bounced because of insufficient funds in its existing accounts. However, officials of ARE said that they have opened saving accounts in different banks and are carrying out transactions from those accounts. “We also received notification regarding the issue, but we have already opened saving accounts in different banks and aren’t facing any problems,” the official said. Meanwhile, clients of the real estate company are preparing to ask the government to step in to save their investments. These clients said that the government should take measures. “The government should audit the company to verify if the company really has money and assets,” one customer said. Last week, ARE had offered a new model of engagement to diffuse the stormy relationship it has with its customers with regards to the delayed construction and delivery of their residences. On March 13, ARE sent out to its customers a message from its Chief Executive Officer Ermyas Amelga, stating several conditions to facilitate construction and improve the control mechanism of the real estate development company. “We ask for your patience for a few more weeks as we begin to implement a new model of customer partnership/engagement in our activities towards the delivery of the homes you have purchased from us,” reads the CEO’s message. “It has been several months since there has been substantive direct communications to you from Access Real Estate and we are aware that there is currently some level of concern regarding ARE progress and activities,” said Ermyas in his message. “We have lost patience, we cannot wait anymore,” one customer said. These customers are planning to hold a meeting on how to further make progress on the issue today, Sunday March 24, around Meskel Square. A group of clients who held talks with the CEO, following the customer update sessions ARE held in September 2012, were promised such a scheme. Activities have since started on one of the sites, but it has not progressed according to the proposed schedule, says one client. “We have been late in properly communicating with you what our ongoing activities, plans and trajectories are in a timely manner,” the letter reads. “However, we hope that the groundwork we are currently laying to implement an unprecedented level of customer involvement and transparency in our activities regarding your respective developments, will conclusively address these issues in the very near future.” “This approach will definitively address what has been a persistent information gap on our activities and allow our home buyers to become part of the solution in completing and delivering the homes you would like to receive in the near future.” The message, however, did not provide an exact time frame for the increased level of engagement with customer representative groups. Meanwhile, noting that the company has amassed a sizable asset base, Ermyas’ message indicated “Whenever it is necessary, ARE will not hesitate to deploy these assets in overcoming near term financing needs for its existing projects. This is part of our normal course of operation involving one or two idle properties”.