Hammerson collects less than half the rent it was due

Commercial landlord Hammerson collected just 41 per cent of rent due on its sites, as the retail sector continues to be hammered amid enforced closures and lockdown restrictions.

The group, which operates the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham and the Brent Cross complex in London, said it was owed £61.5million in rental payments for the first quarter of its financial year, but only received £28.8million.

Hammerson started seeing its fortunes pick up in the final few months of 2020, before the tier system and subsequent national lockdown was imposed.

But, even when trade was better, the group’s sites located in city-centres still saw football drop to just 60 per cent of levels seen the year before.

Lockdown woes: Bullring shopping centre owner Hammerson collected just 41% of rent due on its sites in its first quarter

Hammerson’s rival Intu collapsed into the hands of administrators last year amid plummeting rental income and spiraling debts.

Earlier this month, Bluewater shopping centre owner Land Securities revealed it only collected about two-thirds of rental payments due on Christmas Day.

The Bluewater Shopping Centre owner said it was expecting £101million in net rents within five days of December 25, but only received £66million.

It amassed just 29 per cent of rent it was owed from its non-office Central London estate, and 36 per cent from its regional retail portfolio, compared to 87 per cent and 90 per cent, respectively, the previous year.

During the first three weeks of this year, Hammerson had a quarter of its UK sites open, either due to being ‘essential’ retailers, non-essential stores offering click and collect services, or restaurants and cafes providing deliveries and takeaways.

The group said: ‘Footfall has declined in line with the introduction of new restrictions, particularly across UK flagships and Ireland.’

Tough times: Bicester Village owner Hammerson said half its ‘villages’ remain shut

Rental trouble: This month, Bluewater shopping centre owner Land Securities revealed it only collected about two-thirds of rental payments due on Christmas Day

Hammerson’s sites in France are now subject to a 6pm national curfew, which is mainly hitting food and drink and leisure businesses.

In Ireland, Hammerson’s flagships are only offering essential retail and takeaway or delivery services. Following the Irish Government’s temporary ban on click and collect for non-essential retail, only around a quarter of retail occupiers continue to operate.

The group, which also owns the Bicester Village outlet complex, said that over half of its shopping ‘villages’ remain shut. But, it added: ‘Performance has been robust during periods when Villages have been open and the virtual shopping service has expanded strongly during periods of closure.’

Overall, the group collected 41 per cent of rent due in the UK over the period, 31 per cent in Ireland and 46 per cent in France.

Shares in FTSE 250-listed Hammerson are up 2.88 per cent or 0.66p to 23.59p. this morning. A year ago, the share price stood at 117.45p.

In August, Hammerson revealed it would tap investors for £551.7million via a rights issue and planned to offload its 50 per cent stake in Via Outlets.

It was an attempt to stem some of the losses from the low rent collection it had suffered as shops were forced to close amid lockdown restrictions.

Last week, Hammerson announced that its chief finance officer, James Lenton, was stepping down from his role at the company after 15 months in the job.

‘Following the successful completion of the rights issue, VIA Outlets disposal and induction of the new Chair of the Board and CEO, I feel now is the right time to look for a new opportunity,’ Lenton said.