Roy Cokayne

The acquisition of two more top 25 shopping centres in the UK in a £868 million (R15.2 billion) transaction reinforced the position of Intu Properties as the leading owner, developer and manager of top UK malls, David Fischel, the chief executive of the listed company, said yesterday.

Intu Properties, previously known as Capital Shopping Centres (CSC), completed last week the acquisition of a 50 percent interest in the Westfield Merry Hill shopping centre, a 100 percent interest in the Westfield Derby shopping centre and 100 percent of Sprucefield retail park.

CSC was the unbundled and separately listed mall business of Liberty International, which was founded by South African Donald Gordon.

The acquisitions were being financed by new debt facilities totalling £423.8m and a fully underwritten rights issue of two new shares for every seven existing shares at £1.80 a new share to raise about £500m.

In an interim management update yesterday Fischel said the acquisitions were in line with the company’s strategy to focus on the UK’s largest and most successful destinations and established a partnership with QIC, a major global investor at Merry Hill.

He said Intu Properties was delighted to have concluded such a significant transaction, which reinforced its position as the leading owner, developer and manager of top UK shopping centres, with intu Derby and intu Merry Hill increasing its national coverage of branded centres.

“Investor interest in quality UK shopping centres has strengthened in the period. The strong momentum of our development projects continues, with signs of increased retailer interest as the UK retail environment continues to improve, particularly for space in those centres where investment and improvement projects are under way or imminent.”

Fischel said the UK retail environment had continued to improve, with another quarter of positive like-for-like non-food sales, a fifth quarter of gross domestic product growth and improving consumer confidence with the first above-inflation rise in wages for several years.

“We are beginning to see areas of increased interest from retailers, including for new brands and flagship stores, particularly in centres where we have been or have plans for investing,” he said.

Fischel said the group’s operating metrics were broadly stable with footfall for the year to date 1 percent higher than the same period last year. Occupancy across Intu’s centres remained high at 95 percent and 50 new long-term leases were signed in the quarter.

The stock rose 0.74 percent to R52.99 on the JSE yesterday.