West End landlord Great Portland to buy back £200m of shares

The West End landlord Great Portland Estates is to buy back up to £200m of shares after taking advantage of strong demand for London real estate and selling off a series of properties.

The FTSE 250 group said it would buy back the shares over the coming year after carrying out £329m of sales since April in a “still competitive investment market”, with another £120m of properties now for sale.

The plan follows the return of another £306m to shareholders through a B-share scheme earlier this year. The group has a market capitalisation of approximately £2.1bn.

Great Portland said on Thursday it had pushed up pre-tax profit by 77 per cent to £40.4m from a year earlier in the six months to the end of September. However, operating profit was down 49 per cent to £15.2m on a decline in net rental income because of property sales.

The value of the group’s portfolio rose 0.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis to £2.6bn in the period, in contrast with other large real estate investment trusts, many of whom have seen exposure to the troubled retail property market weigh on their portfolio values.

Great Portland, whose properties are set to benefit from the upcoming Crossrail line, upgraded its rental value growth guidance for the financial year to between 1.5 per cent and minus 1 per cent.

Toby Courtauld, chief executive, said: “Whilst we expect, and are planning for, continued political and economic uncertainty, particularly given the ongoing Brexit negotiations, GPE remains exceptionally well positioned.”

He added that “if any market weakness should emerge, we retain significant financial capacity to exploit it”.

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The company, which owns offices, stores and mixed-use developments, increased its interim dividend by 7.5 per cent to 4.3p.


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