Aberdeen Union Square owner confirms talks to sell retail parks including in Falkirk

Hammerson, the retail ­property giant that owns Aberdeen’s Union Square ­centre, has confirmed that it is in talks over a deal to sell its portfolio of UK retail parks.

The update to investors came after reports emerged that the firm, which is also joint owner of the Silverburn shopping centre in Glasgow, was set to sell its seven sites, including one in Falkirk for some £350 million to Canadian private equity firm Brookfield.

Hammerson confirmed that it was in “discussions” with Brookfield over the potential sale but stressed there was “no certainty that a transaction will take place”.

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“The company will provide a further update in due course, if appropriate,” it added in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

Aberdeen's Union Square centre is among Hammerson's assets.
Aberdeen's Union Square centre is among Hammerson's assets.

It comes after the retail property specialist wrote down the value of its shopping centres and stores by nearly £2 billion as Covid-19 saw rental income suffer the biggest fall in its history.

Last month, bosses at Hammerson said its properties were worth £6.34bn at the end of 2020 compared with £8.33bn a year earlier. Among the group’s other major retail assets are Birmingham’s Bullring and London’s Brent Cross.

In its latest update, the firm said it was continuing to dispose of some of its assets in an effort to “further strengthen the balance sheet”. It revealed it has secured gross proceeds of around £73m in 2021 to date.

The sale talks come despite Hammerson’s retail parks trading robustly compared to some other areas of its estate during the crisis, as they benefited from large supermarket stores and wide open spaces.

In the first quarter, the group collected 64 per cent of its rent due at retail parks compared with 36 per cent at UK shopping centres.

Hammerson’s retail park portfolio consists of parks in Falkirk, Didcot, Middlesbrough, St Helens, Telford, Merthyr Tydfil and Rugby.

In January, the firm pointed to encouraging boosts in customer numbers during the Christmas trading period from November 30 to December 24 as the second English national lockdown ended and the tiering systems allowed for more stores to reopen. The retail sector has since been hit hard by the temporary closure of “non-essential” stores.

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