Minerva boss spots the end of the slump

PROPERTY developer Minerva yesterday gave further signs of economic recovery after reporting that the commercial market decline was bottoming out.<br /><br />Chief executive Salmaan Hasan told City A.M.: &ldquo;For top quality space &ndash; the prime end of the sector &ndash; we are now past the bottom of the market, and over the worst of it.&rdquo;<br /><br />Hasan added he didn&rsquo;t believe there would be a &ldquo;double-dip&rdquo; retreat to a period of steep declines and said that improving conditions would boost rents and reduce the need for developers to offer generous rent-free periods in a bid to lure tenants.<br /><br />Minerva, which owns the City Walbrook and St Botolph developments, said that it had &ldquo;quite extensive interest&rdquo; in the two sites.<br /><br />During the downturn a number of office construction projects have been halted meaning that a short supply of new space is spurring competition. There are only five possible sites for companies who want new space to move into &ndash; and Minerva owns two of these.<br /><br />Media powerhouse Bloomberg was believed to be eyeing up the Walbrook site earlier this year, but as yet no deal has been signed.<br /><br />The group yesterday said that it had narrowed its pre-tax losses in the year ended 2008 to &pound;4.6m, compared to a loss of &pound;12.8, the year before.<br /><br />The losses reflect a &pound;285m write down in the value of its portfolio.<br /><br />Minerva, unlike its property peers, has not tapped the market for financing, but has secured a &pound;750m refinancing deal with its banks last month. But Hasan said he would &ldquo;not rule out&rdquo; tapping the market in the future.