Hammerson keeps focus on retail ambition

 
Kasmira Jefford
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ANGLO-FRENCH property developer Hammerson said yesterday it is eyeing opportunities to invest in Europe’s depressed property market after recently selling the bulk of its London office portfolio for £518m.

The FTSE 100 company, whose portfolio is now 97 per cent retail following the deal with US group Brookfield Office Properties in June, said it had about £1bn to spend.

“The continuing difficulties in the finance market and the challenging occupational market is giving rise to one or two opportunities,” chief executive David Atkins said.

“I certainly think the next 12 to 18 months, with cash available, will be a very good time to acquire.”

The sale of its office portfolio is part of a wider plan by Atkins to focus the company’s efforts on convenient retail markets and premium designer outlets in France and the UK.

The group has increased its presence in the latter market by investing a further £100m in outlet operator Value Retail, raising its stake to 22 per cent from 10 per cent.

It also confirmed that it has signed a deal with John Lewis to anchor the first phase of its Eastgate Quarters in Leeds, paving the way for a potential start on site in early 2014.

In France, Hammerson has secured department store Printemps as an anchor tenant for its Les Terrasses du Port shopping mall in Marseille, which is due to open in 2014.

The company made the announcements as it reported a mixed set up half-year results, including a net asset value rise of 0.9 per cent.

Retail occupancy climbed by 0.5 per cent to 97.5 per cent, despite the tough retail environment, while net rental income rose 2.4 per cent to £141.6m.