Intu shares fall as it mulls equity raising, asset sales

Trafford Centre

Shares of shopping centre operator Intu Properties plc — which runs Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Arndale Centre, Newcastle’s Eldon Square and Gateshead’s Metrocentre — fell about 18% on Wednesday after it said it may raise equity and sell assets to tackle its debt burden.

In a trading statement, Intu CEO Matthew Roberts said: “Our number one priority is to fix the balance sheet.

“We have a clear plan to do this and are working to make material progress over the next six months.

“We continue to consider all options to put us in the best position to deal with both our short and medium term liquidity requirements as we approach our next material debt maturity in early 2021.

“These options include disposing of assets, where we are in the advanced stages of selling two of our Spanish assets, through to raising equity, which is also likely to form part of the solution.”

Last November, a consortium led by Intu’s deputy chairman John Whittaker scrapped a £2.91 billion takeover offer for the firm.

The consortium’s U-turn came after rival Hammerson abandoned a £3.4 billion bid to buy Intu in April last year. 

Roberts added in the trading statement: “In the last quarter, we have continued to face challenging market conditions along with the rest of the sector.

“In particular, CVAs were slightly worse than expected. In the face of these challenges, there is much that gives me confidence about intu.

“Many of our top customers are global, well capitalised businesses and having visited 17 intu centres in recent weeks, there is a very different feeling on the ground to the one we read about regularly.

“Our centres are busy with footfall and occupancy significantly above the industry benchmarks. We know we have the best centre in each city and region that we operate.

“While letting activity has been slower in the third quarter as some customers delay decisions due to continued political and economic uncertainty, we are still signing a good number of new deals with great brands.

“We have also seen a pick-up in letting activity in recent weeks which has seen Harrods take 23,000 sq ft at intu Lakeside to launch its first standalone beauty store, H Beauty, and Zara sign for a new flagship store at St David’s, Cardiff.

“In Spain, AliExpress opened their first European store at intu Xanadú, with footfall at the centre up 20 per cent following the opening.”