British Land feels COVID-19 rental income pinch

British Land has written down the value of its retail portfolio by more than a quarter due to the Coronavirus ruling out most of its retail rental income.

The lockdown pushed the shopping centre owner to a £1.1 billion loss for the year to the end of March - compared with a loss of £320 million the previous year.

It lost £2 million in rent by giving a three-month payment holiday to smaller retail, food and beverage, and leisure customers. Around £35 million of rent payments have also been deferred for customers facing financial challenges due to the spread of COVID-19.

British Land said it collected 68 per cent of rent owed in March, 97 per cent from its London office sites, but just 43 per cent from retail tenants.

Chief executive Chris Grigg commented: “This was already a difficult year for retailers, many of who have been severely impacted by the lockdown and the early effects of the crisis were reflected in the value of our retail portfolio.

“Occupiers are working on plans to get back to the workplace and most feel that it is too early to make fundamental long-term changes around their requirements,” he continued, adding: “However, we are mindful that the trend towards greater flexibility may accelerate following this prolonged period of working from home.”

British Land said it was prepared for the reopening of businesses, with its retail parks “more conducive to mission-based trips and social distancing more easily managed”.

The company - which owns shopping centres including Sheffield’s Meadowhall and Drake Circus in Plymouth - stated that the 26 per cent fall in its retail portfolio value dragged down the value of its entire portfolio by 10 per cent.

“We continue to believe there remains a role for the right kind of retail within our portfolio,” Grigg concluded. “Especially assets that can play a key role for retailers in terms of fulfilment of online sales, returns and click and collect - this will particularly be the case for well-located open-air retail parks.”

British Land is not the only shopping centre owner to be feeling the pinch though, with the value of Land Securities Group's property portfolio falling by nine per cent, or £1.18 billion, to £12.8 billion during the year to 31 March.

In April, Intu took action against tenants not paying their and service charges, despite the challenges retailers have faced during the Coronavirus pandemic. In March, it only received 29 per cent of the rent that was due for the latest quarter, compared to 77 per cent a year earlier.

Also in March, Hammerson revealed that it had only been paid 37 per cent of the rent that was billed in the UK for the second quarter of the financial year. After stripping out rent that has been waived, deferred, or switched to monthly payments, that rose to 57 per cent of what was due.

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