By Olivier Cherfan and Federica Mileo
(Reuters) -Shopping mall owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield on Wednesday reported first-quarter turnover edging closer to pre-pandemic levels, citing a strong post COVID-19 recovery.
The company's IFRS turnover came in at 734.5 million euros ($775.19 million), up 36.2% compared with the previous year, but remained below 2019 performance.
After the pandemic-induced closure of retail outlets hit shopping mall owners, leaving URW with over 22 billion euros of debt at the end of 2021, the group expects its European retail net rental income to return to pre-COVID levels on a run rate basis in 2023, with full effect in 2024.
"Based on Q1 performance, including the improved collection levels and sustained leasing activity, we confirm our 2022 adjusted recurring earnings per share guidance of 8.20 to 8.40 euros per share," Chief Executive Officer Jean-Marie Tritant said in a quarterly earnings statement.
Footfall remains at 82% of pre-pandemic levels, impacted by the Omicron variant, and continues to recover, however slowly, Jefferies said.
"We expect maintaining occupancy to be more challenging given the continuing reliance on short-term leases", the broker adds.
URW is monitoring very closely the potential impact of the wider economic and geopolitical situation on the group's markets, Tritant added.
The company, which counts Forum des Halles in Paris and Madrid's La Vaguada among its assets, reported improving rent collection reaching 93% in the first quarter and expects it to improve further as operating conditions normalise.
($1 = 0.9475 euros)
(Reporting by Olivier Cherfan and Federica Mileo in Gdansk; editing by Jane Merriman and Cynthia Osterman)