Shaftesbury takes a hit


Shaftesbury, the landlord of many of the most exclusive areas in central London, has seen the value of its West End property portfolio fall by almost £700 million, it emerged on last week, as London has been placed in Tier 3.

Brian Bickell, chief executive of the Chinatown and Carnaby Street landlord, said: "Rarely in history has the world seen such widespread disruption to normal patterns of life.”

With pubs and restaurants, except for takeaway and delivery and theatres, bowling alleys and cinemas also temporarily closed. Bickell said he hopes the government will extend the business rates holiday, due to finish at the end of March, to help tenants. He said a number of occupiers make a third of their profits in November and December, so will see income hammered by the Tier 3 restrictions.

During the year to September, Shaftesbury, like rivals, saw scores of bars, restaurants and shops temporarily close across the estate for the first lockdown. That impacted the ability of some tenants to pay rent. Shaftesbury agreed a number of rent changes where needed, including waivers and deferrals and concessions. Since October it has offered monthly, rather than quarterly, rent collections on a permanent basis.

Footfall in central London has also been weaker this year due to travel restrictions keeping many tourists and office workers away.

In the 12 months to September 30 the value of Shaftesbury’s estate dropped 18.3%, or £698.5 million, to £3.1 billion.

Rental income decreased 24.2% to £74.3 million, and the company recorded a loss after tax of £699.5 million, compared to a profit of £26 million last year.

Bickell said that since the second lockdown eased earlier this month, when non-essential retailers, pubs and restaurants could reopen, “footfall had been improving, trading had been much better, and there had been some business enquiries about space”.

Bickell cites he has long term confidence in the capital: “The economies of London and the West End have a long history of structural resilience, having weathered many episodes of challenge and uncertainty. Their unique features, which come from a culture of constant evolution across a broad-based economy, attracting talent, creativity, innovation and investment from across the world, will hasten their recovery and reinforce their enduring appeal to businesses, visitors and residents alike." He added: "The long-term prospects for our portfolio, located in the busiest and liveliest parts of the West End, are underpinned by these valuable qualities, together with the experience, innovation and enthusiasm of our team.”

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