New chair for British Land as profits increase

 
Elizabeth Fournier
BRITISH Land, the UK’s second-largest property company by market value, said yesterday that its chairman will step down at the end of December, as it reported a solid growth in profits for the first half of the year.

Underlying profit before tax at the real estate investment trust rose 3.8 per cent to £137m in the six months to 30 September, as net rental income grew by 1.1 per cent to £272m.

The firm said that chairman Chris Gibson-Smith, who has led the board for the past six years, would be replaced by senior independent director and City veteran John Gildersleeve.

In a headline-heavy update British Land also announced it had secured lettings at key West End and City properties, with Aspect Capital moving into 10 Portman Square behind Bond Street, and Hill Dickinson signed up at Broadgate Tower.

British Land said that despite the slow market, the group had made 953,000 square feet of lettings and renewals, while occupancy rates had remained high at 98.3 per cent.

The value of its office development portfolio increased by 6.9 per cent in the period, with 56 per cent of its sites now pre-let.

Chief executive Chris Grigg said the results were “a good set of numbers in what continues to be a tough market”.

Outgoing chairman Gibson-Smith, who served as a non-executive director before taking up the top spot in 2006, said: “I have had a fascinating 10-year journey with British Land, and the last six years as chairman have been deeply rewarding.”

PROFILE: JOHN GILDERSLEEVE

BRITISH Land’s incoming chairman John Gildersleeve is a retail force to be reckoned with. The City grandee grew up in south London, where he attended a grammar school until he was 18. After a year working as a clerk at oil company Shell, Gildersleeve spotted a newspaper advert for a trainee manager role at Tesco. He joined the supermarket chain in 1965, working his way up from shelf-stacking to become managing director of retail operations in 1982. He was a board member from 1985 until 2004, when he left the group. Gildersleeve was closely linked to Tesco’s overseas expansion and his international credentials were key in his role at the phone retailer Carphone Warehouse, where he served as non-executive chairman from 2005 and 2010. Gildersleeve took on a different retail challenge in 2009 as chairman of the fashion chain New Look, where he was brought in to steer the group towards a float. He stepped down last year after a string of profit warnings and abandoned flotations. At 66, Gildersleeve is showing no signs of slowing down. He is currently deputy chairman of Carphone Warehouse and also serves as a non executive director of TalkTalk. Telecom.