Hammerson has sold the last of its retail parks for £455 million, its largest disposal in the last decade, and will focus on its premium centres and city quarters.
The property group, whose flagship sites include Bullring Birmingham and a 50% stake in designer outlet Bicester Village, said it had exited sites from Falkirk in Scotland to Merthyr Tydfil in Wales and Didcot in England.
The nine sites span a total of 205,000 square metres of space, the business said. They generate a total of £36 million in rental income every year.
“Against a challenged retail and investment backdrop we have exited the retail parks sector,” said Hammerson CEO David Atkins.
Seven of the sites were sold to Orion European Real Estate, for £400 million. These were: Central Retail Park (Falkirk); Cleveland Retail Park (Middlesbrough); Cyfarthfa Retail Park (Merthyr Tydfil); Elliott’s Field Shopping Park (Rugby); Forge Shopping Park (Telford); Ravenhead Retail Park (St Helens); and The Orchard Centre (Didcot)
In a separate transaction, Parc Tawe in Swansea and Abbey Retail Park in Belfast have been sold individually generating proceeds totalling £55 million.
The business announced in July 2018 that it was planning to leave the retail park sector over the medium term to focus on its flagship assets in major cities across Europe. Since then it has sold 14 retail parks for a total of £764 million.
“Having achieved disposals of close to £1 billion since the beginning of 2019, our focus remains on strengthening our balance sheet to create further resilience,” Atkins said.
“The completion of this strategic disposal enables us to create a more concentrated portfolio of flagship venues, premium outlets and city quarters which we expect will deliver greater levels of both income stability and growth over the medium term.”
This latest sale comes amid a challenging period in the retail sector, as customers migrate to online shopping. Retail has also been hampered of late by the storms and the coronavirus epidemic.
Bicester Village, in Oxfordshire for instance, has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak since the site is so popular with Asian tourists. Staff at the shopping area told the BBC earlier this week that footfall had been down.