Wednesday 10 February 2021 6:18 pm

Westfield London owner posts €7.6bn loss after rent squeeze as UK tenants go bankrupt

The shopping centre landlord that owns Westfield London, Stratford City and a swathe of mega-malls across Europe and the US has posted a €7.6bn loss for 2020, after its like-for-like rental income dropped 24 per cent.

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield said the fall in rent revenue for 2020 came after it gave retail and leisure tenants relief as Covid restrictions kept shoppers away.

The net loss for the year to 31 December 2020 was more than €7.6bn.

As a result Westfield will suspend its dividend for three years.

Read more: Westfield owner rejects €3.5bn rights issue after shareholder backlash

In the UK 62 stores out of its 758 store estate were hit by insolvency procedures, including Clarks, Wahaca, Caffe Nero, Moss Bross, Guess and Ann Summers.

By the end of 2020, 20 units are still vacant due to bankruptcies, which represents an annualised hit to rental income of about €2m.

The shopping centre owner said on average its sites were closed for 93 days in 2020.

However, chief executive Jean-Marie Tritant said that when shopping centres opened Westfield data showed pent up demand pushed average spend increased.

“We have realistic expectations for 2021 but are encouraged by the way footfall and sales bounced back strongly whenever restrictions were eased or lifted last year”.

Read more: Prezzo to shut 22 restaurants after insolvency deal

The shopping centre owner said it would sell off US malls as well as complete a remaining €3.2bn of European asset disposals before the end of 2022.

The sell-off would not include either of the Westfield sites in London.

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s new management team is looking to sell real estate to tackle long-term debt problems amid the financial fallout of coronavirus lockdowns.

“At the end of the day, the exposure to the US will be minimal, if not zero,” the group’s new chief executive Tritant, said in a call with journalists.