Feb 25, 2019
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Shopping centre owner Hammerson hit by retail crisis

Feb 25, 2019

Bullring owner Hammerson is trying to offload over £900m of property, including a number of retail parks in the UK, after seeing the retail crisis send the value of its portfolio down by almost 6% in 2018.

Hammerson owns UK shopping centres including Victoria Gate in Leeds and Bullring in Birmingham - Hammerson

The company revealed on Monday that 2018 was a ‘tough year’ for the business due to the wave of retail administrations and CVAs, subdued consumer spending and the structural shift in the retail sector.

In fact, CVAs and tenant failure took a £3m chunk out of Hammerson’s net rental income, which fell 6.2% to £347.5m last year. Adjusted profit dipped 2.4% to £240.3m, the company said.

Several high-profile retailers including House of Fraser, Mothercare and New Look have embarked on a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) over the last year to face the mounting challenges hitting the UK retail sector.

Additionally, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and Britain’s economic prospects has had a negative of consumer spending, sending retail sales down 2.9% and footfall down 1.8% in Hammerson’s UK sites in 2018. Whilst high-street fashion has experienced a decline in sales, Hammerson said the sports and leisure, and health and beauty categories have remained strong.

“2018 was a tough year particularly in the UK. Tenant failures, the structural shift in retail and a more considered consumer created a difficult operating environment, putting pressure on property values. Outside of the UK our destinations performed better with a strong contribution from premium outlets,” commented David Atkins, chief executive.

“We believe that a successful deleveraging programme will best position Hammerson for the current environment and beyond. Disposals will also enable us to prove the inherent value of this business – which we believe is not recognised in the current equity market.

During 2018, Hammerson achieved £570m of disposals, and this year, the business will try to offload at least £500m more in an effort to bring its net debt below the £3bn mark. This strategy helped the firm reduce net debt by £179m to £3.4bn.

As part of this, Hammerson has established an Investment and Disposal Committee to provide additional oversight and focus in this area.

“Over the longer term we will generate opportunities to create additional value through City Quarters, which will see us transform many of our city venues beyond pure retail into successful, thriving neighbourhoods,” Atkins announced.

“The job of creating flagship spaces is never done, but through expert management, innovation and investment we are confident in the future of Hammerson and in maximising value creation for shareholders.”

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