UK retail developer and landlord Hammerson said on Wednesday it sold seven UK retail parks to Canadian private-equity firm Brookfield Asset Management for £330 million (€380 million), marking the mall operator’s exit from the UK retail parks sector.
However, in a statement to The Irish Examiner last week, the company said that none of the group’s Irish investments are being sold. Hammerson has stakes in the Kildare Village shopping outlet and has a 50% stake in the Dundrum Town Centre. It also owns a stake in the Ilac Shopping Centre and Swords Pavillions in Co Dublin.
British shopping centres are set to be fully operational by mid-May under phased exit plan from coronavirus restrictions, which have kept shoppers at home and led to widespread retail rent deferrals.
The divestment will help Hammerson shore up its finances after the UK-headquartered company reported a loss of 1.7 billion pounds for 2020 and issued a longer-term debt warning, as the coronavirus crisis knocked the value of its malls.
“Our immediate priority is to strengthen the balance sheet. This latest disposal is a positive step,” Chief Executive Rita-Rose Gagné said.
The transaction represents an 8% discount to the assets’ book value, as of December 31st, and takes the total gross proceeds of the company’s disposals in 2021 to £403 million, Hammerson said.
Retail parks have been relatively resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic, partly because essential retailers were allowed to operate during the lockdown from these parks that also provide for drive-in and open-air shopping experiences.
Retail landlords are expecting the retail recovery to lag the broader British economy, given it was struggling with a shift to online shopping and high costs even before the pandemic.