West End landlord Shaftesbury has cheered a “remarkable bounce back” since freedom day, even as the value of its property estate fell.
The firm, known for its buildings in Chinatown and Carnaby Street, saw its property portfolio decline 5.4% on a like for like basis to £3 billion in the 12 months to September 30. That period included lockdowns and times when rent support was given to some tenants.
But chief Brian Bickell pointed to encouraging trends in the second half, particularly from July 19 onwards when social distancing ended in most cases and the legal requirement to wear a face covering was lifted.
He said: “What followed has been a remarkable bounce back in activity, as domestic visitors and workers returned, with footfall and spending in our villages well on the way to returning to, or in some cases already exceeding, their pre-pandemic levels.”
Face masks have been reintroduced from today in shops and on public transport due to the threat from the Omicron variant of Covid-19 but Bickell was upbeat.
Asked about the reintroduction of face masks, Bickell told the Standard: “With visitor levels back to 2019 levels in the West End, requiring people to wear masks is just a small inconvenience if it means that we can all enjoy the Christmas and New Year that we didn’t have last year. Anything is better than another lockdown.”
Property values at Shaftesbury started improving in the second half and the FTSE 250 company said there is “sustained” occupier demand to open on the estate.
The pre-tax loss narrowed to £194.9 million from £699.5 million and a dividend of 4p was recommended, from none a year earlier.