Town Centre Securities shares up on dividend news

Shares of Leeds-based property investor and car park operator Town Centre Securities rose about 8% on Wednesday after it issued a stock market statement confirming it will pay its interim dividend despite the impact of the coronavirus crisis on its business.

“For the cumulative rent payments that have fallen due since the outbreak of COVID-19, of the £6.6m rent and service charge billed we have collected £5.0m or 75%, with a further £0.7m (or 11% of payments) that we have agreed to defer, totalling £5.7m or 86% of the amounts due … ” said Town Centre Securities.

“As previously disclosed, our CitiPark car parking business has been hardest hit so far, experiencing a material reduction in income.

“Despite detailed cost cutting measures including the temporary closure of seven branches, the impact of fixed costs such as rents and rates will result in a significant reduction in profitability

“Over a third of our retail and leisure portfolio, which makes up just less than half of the asset base, is currently open and trading.

“At the Merrion Centre this continues to increase and now stands at approximately 43%.

“We are now making detailed plans in order to be ready to open all of our locations from the 15thJune, in line with government guidelines.”

On its dividend policy, Town Centre Securities said: “The board has decided to continue with its payment of the previously announced 3.25p per share interim dividend at a total cost of £1.7m, payable on 26 June 2020 to shareholders registered on 29 May 2020 …

“This decision is based on a review of cashflow forecasts and various operating scenarios and also recognises the fact that this dividend relates to the six month period ended 31 December 2019

“Clearly, significant uncertainty remains around the level of rent receipts for the next quarter, payable at the end of June, and the rate of recovery in the car park business, which will be crucial in determining future financial performance

“The decision regarding payment of any final dividend, which, if paid, is expected to be substantially lower than in the prior years due to the effect of the crisis, will be considered as part of the announcement of the full year results in September, but we may choose to defer the decision beyond that date in order to know the outcome of the September and October quarter rent payments and the rate of improvement in the CitiPark business …

“As previously stated, it remains too early to quantify the on-going impact of COVID-19 on the business and as a result, all previous guidance on performance remains suspended at this time.”

Town Centre Securities CEO and chairman Edward Ziff said: “I am pleased with the progress made in rent collections during this period of disruption, although we have experienced a wide range of responses from tenants.

“These continue to be unprecedented times and we are working tirelessly to support all of our stakeholders whilst remaining in close dialogue with tenants.

“We are doing everything possible to manage TCS through this challenging period with the long-term sustainability of the business being our primary aim and focus, recognising that we are now operating in an uncertain environment which will impact our current and future financial performance.

“However, we are proud of our dividend history and believe strongly that it is both appropriate and responsible to pay the declared interim dividend for the period ended 31 December 2019.”