Top retailers drive British Land profits

One of the UK's biggest property owners yesterday reported strong demand for its out-of-town centres as retailers closed smaller high street shops.

British Land, whose stores tend to be in out-of-town locations, said it bucked the trend of declining rents in the sector by focusing on sites where demand remained robust and by renting its stores to successful retailers. Average rentals rose 0.7 per cent in the year to the end of March.

Stronger retailers were still expanding their footprint in the best locations, while reducing their exposure to smaller more poorly performing stores, amid tough trading conditions. Underlying pre-tax profits increased 3 per cent to 256 million and its annualised retail rental income rose 2 per cent to 368m.

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Chairman Chris Gibson-Smith said: "While, as a nation, we have moved from recession to the age of austerity, consumers are still shopping and good businesses are looking to grow."

British Land's portfolio includes Glasgow Fort and the 1.5 million sq ft Meadowhall complex in Sheffield. The value of its property portfolio increased 7 per cent to 9.6 billion, helped by the strong lettings performance and an increase in the size of its estate through new developments and acquisitions.

Average rents at its offices, mainly in London, increased by 7.7 per cent as a result of a shortage of space in the capital. The group is spending 1.1bn on London's largest office building programme, including the Leadenhall building, known as the Cheesegrater.