Helical Bar announces plans to kickstart London projects

COMMERCIAL property firm Helical Bar plans to kickstart its development pipeline in the next 12 to 18 months as the UK market rebounds and the company may raise its full-year dividend.<br /><br />&ldquo;Let&rsquo;s hope we can raise the full-year dividend. We usually, and very rarely not, annually raise the dividend by 10 to 12 per cent, so that would be a figure we are aiming to,&rdquo; said chief executive Michael Slade.<br /><br />In its half-year results announced yesterday Helical said its interim dividend would be maintained at 1.75p a share, having paid an unchanged final dividend for last year of 2.75p.<br /><br />Slade said over the next three years Helical would spend the rump of its &pound;500m of available funds. <br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;re looking, at the West End and the City, to be doing something in about a year&rsquo;s time,&rdquo; he said, adding Helical was bidding strongly on a West End building that was due to become vacant in 18 months.<br /><br />He also said a 275,000 sq ft office development planned for Mitre Square would likely be started in 18 months, having been on the backburner for two years.<br /><br />In the half year to end-September Helical saw a 92.5 per cent fall in underlying profits after it booked further writedowns in the value of its assets in the run-up to the end of the UK property slump.<br /><br />After property writedowns, loss on sale of investment properties and investment gains, Helical&rsquo;s loss before tax was &pound;8.8m, against a &pound;12.7m profit a year earlier. <br /><br />The company recorded a gain of &pound;1.8m in the six months to 30 September, against &pound;23.9m a year earlier.<br /><br />Net gearing was reduced to 83 per cent, from 95 per cent, with the repayment of &pound;63m of debt.