Shopping centre owner Hammerson sought to distance itself from the woes facing the High Street as it stepped up its defence against a £4.9billion takeover by French rivals.
The landlord, whose £10.6billion estate includes the Bullring in Birmingham, Brent Cross in London and Cabot Circus in Bristol, said ‘not all retail is equal’.
Boss David Atkins argued that while the number of people who went shopping in the UK over Easter fell by 2.4 per cent – reflecting the tough times facing High Street businesses – visitor numbers to Hammerson sites rose 5 per cent.
The futuristic Selfridges store in Birmingham’s Bullring centre. Owner Hammerson, is trying to buy British rival Intu but has itself become a takeover target by French giant Klepierre
Hammerson, which is trying to buy British rival Intu but has itself become a takeover target by French giant Klepierre, added that it signed £7million of new leases in the first quarter of the year, up 59 per cent on the same period of 2017.
‘Whilst we recognise the difficult trading environment and challenges felt by many retailers and restaurants in the UK, there continues to be good demand for space across our centres,’ Atkins said.
He also said the company’s assets were now worth an estimated 790p a share – way above the Klepierre offer price of 615p a share.
The update, the first such quarterly report Hammerson has issued in years, came just two weeks after it rebuffed interest from Klepierre, which runs more than 100 shopping centres across Europe.
The approach by the French threatens to derail Hammerson’s planned £3.4billion takeover of Intu, whose estate includes the Metro Centre in Gateshead and Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester.
Hammerson has now delayed the publication of documents relating to the Intu deal ‘while Klepierre’s position remains unclear’.
Analysts at Exane BNP Paribas said: ‘By producing a first quarter valuation, Hammerson is clearly trying to force Klepierre into improving on its initial approach.’
But Atkins’s bullish assessment of Hammerson’s fortunes was undermined by an admission that sales in stores across its UK estate fell 2 per cent in the first quarter.
The company said this was better than seen in the wider market and as ‘severe weather and subdued consumer confidence’ hit sales across the country.
It added that sales at its Bicester Village site in Oxfordshire grew by more than 10 per cent.
Many shopping centres and high streets are struggling in the face of fierce competition from internet retailers such as Amazon as well as rising costs.
Toys R Us and Maplin crashed into administration this year, New Look is preparing to shut 60 stores leaving 980 staff unemployed, and the future of Mothercare and Moss Bros hang in the balance.