Landsec, one of Britain’s largest real estate companies, has said it plans to sell nearly a third of its £ 12.8 billion real estate portfolio over the next few years as it looks to focus on growth opportunities in cities.
The real estate group behind Trinity Leeds and Bluewater shopping center in Kent has said it intends to sell assets valued at around 4 billion pounds over four to five years and reinvest the money in new projects.
The company will sell some of its hotels, leisure properties and retail complexes, areas where it believes it has “little or no competitive advantage,” and will instead focus on a new project development strategy that includes a mix of offices, retail stores and homes.
Mark Allan, who joined Landsec as CEO during the national shutdown in April, said the company is “developing a strategy that makes the most of Landsec’s strengths and puts the business for growth.”
Allan highlighted a London shopping center in London, the O2 Center on Finchley Road in North London, as having “significant redevelopment and re-employment potential”, such as building new residential buildings on site.
Landsec reaffirmed its commitment to the capital, although turnout in central London continued to decline due to the absence of office workers and tourists. Central London assets account for nearly two-thirds (64%) of the Landsec portfolio by value.
She said she believes that some retail outlets located on the ground floor of London office buildings will recover in the wake of the pandemic as they face no competition from online retailers.
However, Alan stressed that Landsec expects rents to fall in regional malls, in cities and towns from Glasgow and Leeds to Cardiff and Portsmouth. It expects rents to fall between 20% and 25% from their levels in March to become “sustainable” for tenants.
Alan said the epidemic had “accelerated the structural changes that were already underway” in the retail sector.
The company revealed earlier in October that it had only managed to collect a third of the rent from retail tenants five business days after it was due, highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on commercial real estate companies.
In contrast, it collected 82% of the rental payments from its office tenants, and Landsec said it did not expect a decrease in office rental values.
The real estate group has highlighted the growth of its retail outlets, including Braintree Village in Essex and Clarks Village in Somerset, which offer shoppers discount products and are located in off-town locations that are usually reached by car.
Landsec described its retail outlets portfolio as “thriving” and said that part of its portfolio “is growing stronger and recovering more strongly as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Analysts at US investment bank JP Morgan Cazenove said they were “disappointed by the lack of details” provided by Landsec about its new strategy. “Nothing on offer today materially changes the fortunes of the group in the near term,” they said.