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West End landlord Shaftesbury reports grim rent collection rates

Shaftesbury optimistic for London recovery

Shaftesbury collected just 36% of rent due in the first month of 2021 as the lockdown meant the majority of its portfolio was shuttered.

The group, which owns a 16-acre portfolio in the heart of London’s West End – including Carnaby Street, Covent Garden and Chinatown, said it had received £3.5m of the £9.8m billed in the month. Almost half of the rent (48%) had been waived by Shaftesbury to support its tenants through the lockdown, and 16% remains outstanding without any agreement in place.

The final quarter of 2020 saw the group collect 45% (£12.2m) of the £27m billed. 35% was waived and 20% remains outstanding.

Previous quarters make for grim reading too, with 54% received in the third quarter of 2020 (July to September) and 58% in the second quarter (March to June).

The company was boosted this week by the government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.

Chief executive Brian Bickell said the location of its portfolio will play an important roll in its recovery post-lockdown.

He said: “The relaxation of pandemic restrictions will herald the revival of the West End’s economy in the months ahead, with a gradual return of local and domestic footfall and the reopening of hospitality businesses, shops and its world-renowned cultural and leisure attractions.

“Our strategy of supporting the survival and reopening of our existing hospitality and retail businesses is aimed at ensuring our locations will be animated, interesting and welcoming for returning customers. Our portfolio is located in the heart of the most vibrant part of London and we are optimistic that the appeal of our carefully-curated destinations will drive the return of footfall and trading.” 

The company added that it does not expect international business and leisure travel to start to improve until late 2022 and that volumes may not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025/6.

Occupier demand and vacancy

EPRA vacancy across the group’s portfolio stood at 10.8% of total estimated rental value (ERV) at 31 January 2021 and extended to 226,000 sq ft of commercial and residential space. Of the total, 2.8% was under offer at 31 January 2021.

The group said occupier interest had increased over recent months, especially from restaurateurs looking to open into recovering footfall later in 2021. Shaftesbury said it was typically agreeing slightly longer rent-free periods and some stepped rents to assist their cash flows through the recovery period.

It said retail demand remained subdued, although it has received some enquiries from retailers that are seeking shorter, flexible leases, with an element of risk-sharing in the early years of a lease. These are likely to become common features of leasing discussions while West End retail vacancy is at historically high levels, it added.

Finance

At 31 December 2020, net debt was £701.6m (30 September 2020: £692.6m). Available liquidity totalled £358.2m, comprising £258.2m of cash and an undrawn revolving credit facility amounting to £100m.

Interest cover covenant waivers have been agreed on its term loans and revolving credit facility ranging from July 2021 to January 2022, while it said it continues to comply with the interest cover covenants in its two public bonds

It has also agreed an interest cover covenant waiver extension to January 2022 in its Longmartin joint venture (a 50% interest in a 1.9-acre leasehold interest in St Martin’s Courtyard in Covent Garden) with the provider of its £120m secured term loan.

SHB : West End landlord Shaftesbury reports grim rent collection rates

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