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British Land feels tier pinch as more than half of December retail rent missing
11 January 2021

British Land has managed to collect less than half of the rent it is due from the shops and other retail outlets that rent its space, as two-thirds of them were forced to close in January.

The company said it had collected 46% of December rents by Thursday last week, seven days after they were due.

The bills cover the last three months of the year, which were hit by both lockdown and the Government’s tier system, which is designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

By Christmas Eve, restrictions were not as tight as they had been during November’s lockdown, and 73% of British Land’s stores were operational at that point, it said.

Less than two weeks later, on 7 January, only 620 stores, or 32%, were able to trade in some way.

The company reported “resilient” trading in the four weeks to Christmas and said that between 30 November and 26 December, footfall was 76% of last year’s level.

The company also said it had noticed very little difference between sales in areas in Tiers 1 to 3. Stores in Tier 4 had however been hit, and were five percentage points lower. In shops that remained open, sales were 81% of last year’s levels.

“British Land’s managed to collect less than half the rent it’s owed for December. Even allowing for new monthly collection agreements, 45% of the December retail rent roll is unpaid,” said Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“It’s testament to the dire state of the retail sector that the market has shrugged off those pretty ugly numbers and left the shares broadly unmoved.”

Those shares, which fell around 1%, were likely buoyed by British Land’s office space. In that segment, it has collected 95% of December rent already, and expects to receive more in time.

Office rent has proven much more resilient for the company during this crisis. It has collected 98% of the March rent it was due, 99% of June rent, and 99% of September rent.

Hyett said: “In British Land’s favour is the fact its shopping centres are performing better than the wider market – helped by outdoor retail parks delivering click and collect services – while office rent is proving robust despite the fact many of us are working from home.

“These are long-term positives and, together with newer campus developments in London, should mean the group emerges from the crisis bruised but not broken.”

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