4 Debenhams freeholds sold as landlords back away from high street

British Land is due to sell off its last four remaining freestanding Debenhams stores as the property giant shifts its estate away from the struggling high street.

Debenhams freeholds in Bournmouth, Cardiff, Chemsford and Chester are now being marketed with British Land, which has flown in agents CBRE to handle the sales process.

A fifth freestanding Debenhams store in Clapham Junction was also recently sold by British Land for £48 million.

Debenhams flagship store on Oxford Street was previously sold by British Land to a private investor two years ago for £400 million.

The move represents a new strategy for the property company, which is aiming to reduce its exposure to the high street by favouring more reliable retail properties in shopping centres and mixed-use destinations.

Sources said that the freeholds are being marketed as possible redevelopment opportunities, after the department store revealed plans to offload 50 stores over the next five years, leading to around 4000 job losses.

Many have also speculated that Debenhams is considering a CVA after it posted its worst set of results in its 240-year history, seeing a loss of £491.5 million in its preliminary results for its financial year ending September 1.

A CVA would see the department store break lease agreements with British Land and severely reduce its rents, although Debenhams has denied it was working on one.

British Land, which bought 23 freeholds and long leaseholds on stores from Debenhams in 2005, is planning to reduce its retail property holdings from around half of its portfolio, to between 30 and 35 per cent over the next five years.

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