Wednesday 21 August 2019 2:43 pm

Shopping centre landlord Hammerson appoints new finance chief

Hammerson drafted in a new finance chief this morning, as the troubled retail landlord looks to shore up its balance sheet after a challenging 12 months.

James Lenton, a chartered accountant, will take on the role of chief financial officer from the start of October.

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He will succeed Timon Drakesmith, who announced in May that he would be leaving the commercial property company, which owns a number of flagship shopping centres including ones in Brent Cross and Westquay, Southampton.

In the last year, as some of Hammerson’s tenants continue to struggle amid higher costs and rising competition, the company’s share price has dived by roughly 58 per cent.

In April last year, French shopping centre company Klépierre walked away from a £5bn takeover of Hammerson.

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Chris Field, independent retail analyst and chairman of retail connections, told City A.M. that “declining footfall is certain to continue as retailers work out just how many stores they really need, and this will hurt shopping centres’ profits. Longer term, the good news is that both they and the retailers will eventually work out how to attract and convert shoppers, even if that means having fewer of them in the store”.

He added: “The answer depends on having a customer-focused strategy that embraces hospitality, entertainment, [and] online access in-store. Hammerson and others can put the excitement back into shopping centres, but it will take time”.

Chair David Tyler welcomed the incoming finance chief, who said Lenton “has demonstrated significant success [throughout his career] in working with and managing complex organisations which are experiencing periods of substantial change.”

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