Hammerson hurt by Covid as rent collections plummet in UK and Europe
Shopping malls giant Hammerson struggled badly in 2020 as tenants didn't pay their rent and stores in its properties were closed for months on end.
The company’s properties include the giant Bullring mall, plus a raft of other UK, Irish and French shopping centres and premium outlets such as tourist destination Bicester Village.
It said on Friday that it made an IFRS loss of £1.7 billion last year, primarily due to a property revaluation deficit (2019’s IFRS loss had been £781 million). And its net rental income fell 41% on a like-for-like basis to just £158 million, “impacted by Covid-19 closures, tenant restructuring and higher provisions for bad debt and tenant incentives”.
Its portfolio valuation at year-end was £6.388 billion, down from £8.327 billion a year earlier. That reflected UK flagships’ capital return being down 35.8%, French flagships down 15.3%, Ireland flagships down 17.5%, retail parks down 23.3%, and outlets operator Value Retail down 6.2%.
Other evidence of just how tough 2020 was came as it said group occupancy was down to 94.3% from 97.2% and leasing was impacted during the pandemic too. Leasing activity was down 35% vs 2019.
CEO Rita-Rose Gagné said: “By any measure, 2020 was an unprecedented year with every business and household affected by Covid-19. As our results show, Hammerson was hit hard. The retail sector, already in the grip of major structural change, has been significantly impacted by the restrictions imposed to tackle the pandemic, and we’ve also seen an increasing number of retail failures. Combined, this has resulted in the largest fall in net rental income and UK asset values in the group’s history.”
But she also added an upbeat note, saying: “However, if this pandemic has highlighted anything, it is how much we all crave human contact as inherently social beings. As a business, Hammerson provides the places and social infrastructure where people want and need to be, and I am confident it will have a vital role in shaping neighbourhoods and communities in the future.”
She said the focus for now is getting through the pandemic. This means “further disposals to strengthen the balance sheet, managing refinancing, and sharpening our operations to maximise income”. It will then focus on “realising the quality of our destinations to drive the business forward”. Gagné said the business is currently working on a thorough strategic and organisational review “that will map out a route to future growth to transform the business in the context of what will remain a tough economic and structural backdrop”.
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