Minerva back in black after values soar

MINERVA, London’s second largest property developer, has swung back into profit following a difficult year in which it fought off a take-over attempt by its largest shareholder.

The company – which recently completed its iconic Walbrook development opposite Cannon Street – announced profit after tax of £69.1m for the year to 30 June, a massive turnaround from the £287.1m loss it made last year.

It said the reason for the change in fortunes was due to an improvement in the valuation of its real estate portfolio. Its net asset value (NAV) – a key measure of a property developer’s success – jumped to 132p by the end of June, up 29 per cent on December’s 102p.

Last month shareholders rejectd an attempt by KiFin, Minerva’s largest shareholder, to remove chairman Oliver Whitehead and chief executive Salmaan Hasan over a perceived lack of direction.

KiFin, which is the investment vehicle of South African billionaire Natie Kirsh, took a 29.5 per cent stake in Minerva in November 2008 and attempted a takeover of the property firm that valued it at 50p a share. That was rejected by shareholders as undervaluing the company.

Whitehead said despite the extreme challenges brought on by the credit crunch and the dispute with KiFin, the company had successfully achieved a number of important milestones.

These included a comprehensive refinancing of the group’s loan facilities, the sale of its Wigmore Street building for £40.75m, pre-letting 45 per cent of the total office space at its St Botolph Building and achieving pre-sales of £230m at its Lancaster Gate apartment complex.