150310 (L)David Fischer and Ian Hawksworth Liberty International talking of plans to Demerger its shopping centre business and London Property assets.photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi

Roy Cokayne

CAPITAL & Counties (Capco), the listed specialist central London property company that owns significant prime properties in Covent Garden in London, maintains the estate has re-established itself as a vibrant district where people can shop, eat, live and work within a unique cultural and historical setting.

Ian Hawksworth, the chief executive of Capco, said a rigorous asset management strategy, with a plan for every street, meant Capco’s offering at Covent Garden was exciting and creative for visitors and attractive to retailers.

Hawksworth said this was reflected in the recent letting activity it had seen from both new and existing tenants. “Our tenant mix continues to evolve as brands are attracted to the energy and quality footfall on the estate,” he said.

Hawksworth said that occupancy on the estate remained high at 99 percent and footfall remained strong with 43 million customer visits a year.

In the six months to June, Covent Garden had shown solid growth with the value of the estate rising by 6.3 percent on a like-for-like basis to £1.3 billion (R23bn). Annual gross income at end-June was £42.9 million and the December 2016 estimated rental value has been adjusted to £85m.

Hawksworth said this reflected acquisition activity.

Capco had expanded its footprint in Covent Garden in the six-month reporting period, acquiring six properties with potential for repositioning and conversion.

“We have a solid pipeline of opportunities ahead of us with the Kings Court and Carriage Hall schemes, our largest developments to date, redeveloping over 100 000 square feet [9 300m2], including 22 000 square feet of new space on the estate,” he said.

Capco, one of the two listed companies formed from the demerger of Liberty International, which was established by Donald Gordon, has significant property assets in Earls Court in central London.

Hawksworth said the Earls Court masterplan was moving forward and detailed planning consent had been granted for Earls Court Village and pre-enabling works had started on site to prepare for demolition next year.

He said the Empress State Building had also achieved detailed planning consent for a conversion to residential property and would bring a further 56 700m2 into the overall masterplan area.

He added that the positive launch of Lillie Square had set a new pricing benchmark for the area around Earls Court and demonstrated the breadth and depth of demand for well-located premium residential product in central London.

“Our focus is now set on the construction of phase one and the launch of subsequent phases. London is a thriving global city, and with the population expected to grow significantly, it needs more housing.

“The Earls Court masterplan is a significant opportunity to create a dynamic new neighbourhood and underpins the delivery of new homes, jobs, and investment in infrastructure for an important part of London,” he said.

Capco reported on Friday a 9.9 percent total return for the six months to June. Hawksworth said it had a positive start to the year with European Public Real Estate Association (EPRA)-adjusted net asset value growing to £2.3bn from £1.9bn at year end.

EPRA-adjusted diluted net asset value a share increased by 9.5 percent to £2.72 in that time. Net first-half rental income totalled £37.4m against £64.8m for the year to December last year.

Capco’s like-for-like total property market value increased by 7.5 percent to £2.6bn from £2.3bn in December. An interim dividend of 0.5p a share has been proposed.

The shares rose 1c to R58.06 on the JSE on Friday.