British Land announces strong cash position amid Covid-19 crisis

Meadowhall owner, British Land has has announced its strong cash position to face the Coronavirus outbreak, and also introduced a three-month rent holiday for small retail, food and leisure tenants.

The shopping operator owns leading retail destinations such as Meadowhall in Sheffield, Drake Circus in Plymouth and the new Broadgate development in London.

Excluding Valentine in Lincoln, essential stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies in all of British Land’s retail destinations remain open. Also around 12% of the total number of individual units are currently open.

In order to support tenants who are being impacted by the global health crisis, British Land has offered to release smaller retail, food & beverage and leisure tenants from their rental requirements for three months.

In addition, the business will defer the March quarter day rents and distribute repayment over the six quarters from September 2020 for other tenants facing financial difficulties due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Although, such efforts could have a financial impact of £40 million.

Despite this, British Land says it has a “strong and robust financial footing”, with cash reserves of £1.2 billion, undrawn facilities and no requirements to refinance until 2024.

In response to the current crisis, the company has suspended all future dividend payments with immediate effect as well as the third quarter dividend due in May. Underlying earnings for the year ending 31 March is believed to be “broadly in line” with previous expectations.

Last year, British Land saw almost £600 million slashed from the value of its retail property portfolio as it was struck by the current turmoil facing UK retailers.

The shopping centre operator was weighed down by the recent flurry of shop closures and restructurings by major high street retailers in the six months to September last year.