UK's Hammerson profit inches up as footfall woes linger



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Shoppers are seen walking near Bullring shopping centre, owned by mall operator Hammerson, in Birmingham, Britain, November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

(Reuters) -British mall operator Hammerson on Thursday reported a 14% rise in half-year adjusted profit thanks to a retail recovery following the easing of lockdowns and lower costs, but warned that footfall was yet to rebound to pre-pandemic levels.

The British government in June extended a ban on commercial evictions until March 2022, even as mall operators heavily exposed to non-essential retail tenants were battered by months of COVID-19 lockdowns.

Landlords have been forced to rework rental agreements and offer concessions on plunging demand and asset valuations, while a recent spike in COVID-19 cases has brought back restrictions in some places including France, where Hammerson has operations.

The debt-laden firm’s adjusted earnings rose to 20.1 million pounds ($27.90 million) for the six months ended June 30, from 17.7 million pounds a year earlier.

IFRS loss narrowed to 376 million pounds from 1.09 billion pounds in the pandemic-hit comparable period in 2020. In 2019, Hammerson reported 107.4 million pounds in adjusted earnings and 319.8 million pounds in IFRS loss.

“We are focused on continuing to de-lever the balance sheet through disposals of non-core assets, creating a leaner and more agile organisation,” Chief Executive Officer Rita-Rose Gagné said in a statement.

The 250-listed firm said half-year EPRA net tangible assets per share, a key metric for the sector, fell 16% to 69 pence, adding that footfall was averaging at 75% of 2019 levels.

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($1 = 0.7203 pounds)

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