Mar 10, 2021
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Covent Garden landlord Capco upbeat on 2021 prospects

Mar 10, 2021

There are 34 days (and counting) to go until non-essential retail reopens in England and optimism mounts. And London's Covent Garden surely isn't alone in its enthusiasm to return to business.

Photo: Sandra Halliday

“I think everybody we deal with wants to get on with it. They [retailers] are champing at the bit to reopen,” said Ian Hawksworth, chief executive of Capital & Counties (CapCo), which owns 1.2 million sq ft of prime retail and office space across Covent Garden.

Despite delivering tough-to-read preliminary results for the year ended 31 December, Hawksworth said on Wednesday that he remains ”cautiously optimistic” about reopening the estate that had seen its value fall by 27% to £1.8 billion. 

That means almost £1 billion was wiped off its portfolio after the pandemic devastated footfall in one of London’s key destinations.

Meanwhile, net rental income plummeted 74% to £16 million compared to December 2019. Underlying net rental income was also down 30% on a like-for-like basis to £44 million. New leasing deals were signed at 29% below estimated rents at the end of 2019.

In the positive column, CapCo noted vacancy rate stood at just 3.5% compares to 3.2% a year ago. It also recorded 65 new leases and renewals in the period, representing £6.2 million of contracted income agreed during the year. 

Also, Covent Garden net debt was cut to £352 million from £555 million a year ago and loan-to-value-ratio was cut to 19% from 36% at 30 June 2020.

Staunton added: “We remain focused on responsible stewardship, disciplined capital management and are committed to delivering long-term value for shareholders from our unique portfolio of West End focused investments.” 

Guardedly, chairman Henry Staunton also said Covent Garden is “well-positioned to benefit from recovery over time”.

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