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Inverness retail park owner counts the cost of Covid-19

Tesco Extra at Inverness Retail Park.
Tesco Extra at Inverness Retail Park.

The owner of Inverness Retail Park has seen more than £2 billion wiped off the value of its retail sites and offices as the pandemic and lockdowns wreaked havoc on its estate.

British Land, which owns shopping centres throughout the UK, including Inverness Retail Park, Fort Kinnaird, in Edinburgh, and Glasgow Fort, reported a 10.8% tumble in the value of its property portfolio, from £11.2 billion to £9.1 million at the end of March.

The firm posted its third straight year of annual losses, with pre-tax losses of £1.05bn for the 12 months to March 31 against a deficit of £1.1bn the previous year.

On an underlying basis, profits reduced by more than one-third, down 34.3% at £306 million as many of its office block and retail tenants were left unable to pay rent for most of the year.

Shopping centres, which have been more impacted by Covid-19, are likely to take a little longer to stabilise.”

British Land’s retail sites took the brunt of the hit from the pandemic, with values plunging by 24.7%, while the company suffered a 3.8% fall across offices.

The group was able to collect just 71% of rent across its retail estate, with many shops closed for most of the year due to coronavirus restrictions. By contrast, it collected 99% of office rents.

British Land said it had seen an “encouraging” performance across its estate since non-essential retail reopened this spring, with shopper numbers and sales recovering to pre-pandemic levels.

However, it cautioned retail markets are likely to “remain tough and we expect rents to decline further”.

It added: “We are seeing signs of stabilisation on retail parks and our central case is an additional rental decline of around 5%.

“Shopping centres, which have been more impacted by Covid-19, are likely to take a little longer to stabilise.”

It’s not only being threatened by the rising tide of homeworking, but like a sandcastle, it faces fresh erosion from the heavy spade of e-commerce.”

Susannah Streeter, Hargreaves Lansdown

With flexible homeworking set to stay, British Land is also targeting higher-end campus-style developments, mixing retail, office, meeting and housing space.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “There is no mistaking the challenge British Land is facing.

“It’s not only being threatened by the rising tide of homeworking, but like a sandcastle, it faces fresh erosion from the heavy spade of e-commerce.

“The quality of its portfolio probably means it’s one of the better-placed property companies in the UK, but the disruption ripping through the industry will not leave it undamaged.”

Inverness Retail Park is based on the outskirts of the Highland capital and home to 25 retail and leisure units, including a 105,000sq ft Tesco Extra superstore and Vue Multiplex.


Will a busy spell for the region’s shops prove to be just a short-term bounce or something more lasting?

British Land looks to retail parks as rent remains hit by Covid

 

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