Hammerson bids 'au revoir' to French joint ventures as crisis reshapes balance sheet

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Britain's biggest shopping centre-owner is to bid 'au revoir' to its joint ventures in France as it sheds non-core assets to strengthen its balance sheet.

Sky News has learnt that Hammerson is to offload two jointly owned assets across the Channel in a move that will raise tens of millions of pounds.

The disposals are expected to be announced alongside Hammerson's full-year results on Friday.

One person close to the situation said that Hammerson had decided to sell a 25% holding in Espace St Quentin, which is majority-owned by the German insurer Allianz, and a 10% stake in Nicetoile, a shopping destination in the southern French city.

Allianz, which also owns the bulk of the site in Nice, is said to be the likeliest buyer of Hammerson's interest in the two JVs.

Hammerson will retain a presence in France through the ownership of other assets where it has more of an influence over their future, according to the person.

The sale of the two stakes will nevertheless underline the intention of Rita-Rose Gagne, the Brent Cross and Bullring-owner's new chief executive, to simplify the company and focus it on core assets with potential for future revenue growth.

Like other companies across the retail industry, Hammerson's finances have been severely strained by the pandemic, with rent collection in the first quarter of this financial year falling to just 41% of tenants' liabilities, it said in January.

Last year, the company raised more than £800m from a rights issue and the sale of a 50% stake in Via Outlets, another jointly owned venture.

Hammerson declined to comment.