(Reuters) - Mall operator Hammerson posted a 1.7 billion pound ($2.37 billion) loss for 2020 and gave a formal warning about threats to its ability to continue as a going concern, as the value of properties sank in the COVID-19 crisis and it launched asset sales to bolster its finances.
Shares in the company gained in initial deals after it said it had made 73 million pounds from the sale of the Brent South Shopping Park and its stakes in two French joint ventures.
It also reported an almost halving of net rental revenue and said it had so far collected 76% of last year's rents as the crisis battered its retail tenants.
Hammerson said it would meet its liabilities at least for the next 12 months, but flagged that the impact of the virus on the retail sector and broader economy could cast significant doubt on its ability to carry on as a business.
"More adverse outcomes relative to those assumed in the scenario modelling, could result in breaches in the Group's unsecured gearing and interest cover ratio covenants," the company said.
British shopping centres are set to be fully operational only by mid May as per the phased exit plan from the latest round of restrictions which have kept shoppers at home and led to widespread rent deferrals by retailers.
Hammerson's total portfolio, including premium outlets, fell 24% in value to 6.34 billion pounds during 2020.
"The portfolio is still in lockdown, tenant activity is on pause and we need to wait for the reopening to see how the rent roll performs through summer and into year end," JP Morgan analysts wrote in a note.
"2021 (is) all about disposals: Disposals will be necessary to lower its LTV of 46%."
The FTSE 250-listed company, which runs shopping malls such as the Bullring in Birmingham and Italie Deux in Paris, said the results represented its largest ever fall in net rental income and UK asset values.
Adjusted profit sank to 36.5 million pounds for the full-year ended Dec. 31, compared with 214 million pounds a year earlier.
(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil and Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Patrick Graham)