Commercial property group Land Securities today reported profit before tax of £1.24 billion for the year to March 31st 2011, a 14.8 per cent increase on the previous 12-month period.
In what was a strong annual performance for the property company, like-for-like (LFL) rental values increased 4.7 per cent year-on-year and LFL voids in its portfolio reduced from 5.3 to 4.3 per cent.
Retail LFL voids fell from 6.1 to 4.9 per cent over the course of the year, with retail space at the group’s newest shopping centre, One New Change in London, fully let having opened in October.
Construction on Land Securities’ Trinity Leeds development also started last year, and the site is already 58 per cent pre-let or in solicitors’ hands ahead of its scheduled opening in 2013.
The company’s success in reducing voids and the confidence it has shown in opening new shopping centres at a time of economic distress for many businesses shows that there is demand from retailers if the right properties become available in the right locations.
Land Securities CEO Francis Salway said: “This was a year of continued recovery in our market and strong progress by Land Securities.
“Our focus on development, our disciplined approach to acquisitions and disposals and our asset management activities have all delivered significant momentum across the business.
“In retail, our focus covers both a small number of development projects grounded on pre-lettings and the recycling of assets to ensure the portfolio is well matched to the emerging patterns of demand from retailers.”
The last year also saw Land Securities pre-let 40,100 sq m of space to value retailer Primark at schemes in Livingston, Thanet, Leeds and Sunderland, as well as conditionally at Oxford Street in London.
John Lewis committed to two at home shops in Chester and Exeter, while two new stores were completed and opened on behalf of the UK’s third largest grocer Sainsbury’s.
Today’s statement recommended an increase in Land Securities’ final dividend to 7.2p.
Salway added: “We may continue to see ripples in prices, but we go into the new financial year confident in our plans and well positioned to address growth opportunities.”
It was also announced today that Sir Christopher Bland and Bo Lerenius will step down as non-executive directors at Land Securities’ AGM on Thursday July 21st 2011.
Having served for three and seven years respectively, both men are stepping down to concentrate on other business commitments, and will not be immediately replaced.