Shopping centre owner ditches £3.4bn takeover of rival

Hammerson, which owns Birmingham’s Bullring centre and Brent Cross in London, had agreed in December 2017 an all-share merger with rival Intu, which owns the Lakeside centre in Thurrock and Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Hammerson would have become the biggest UK property company with £21bn in assets if the deal had gone through.

It blamed weakness in the retail sector for calling off the deal.

Shopping centre owner ditches £3.4bn takeover of rival
Shopping centre owner ditches £3.4bn takeover of rival

It has been a rocky few months for retailers and their landlords, with the likes of Toys R Us, East and Maplin stumbling into administration. Many others, like Prezzo and New Look, have closed stores.

A general view of the Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock. Picture by: Ian West/PA Archive/PA Images Date taken: 09-Jan-2003
Image:Hammerson had hoped to add the Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock to its stable

At the same time, consumers have been tightening their belts as wages have failed to keep pace with inflation. And many have chosen to switch their spending online.

Hammerson “reassessed the proposed acquisition of Intu in light of updated information on current market dynamics in the UK”, the company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

“Over the last five months, the financial strength of retailers and other tenants in the UK has softened and a number of retailers have entered into administrations or CVAs (company voluntary arrangements), while consumer confidence has also remained subdued.”

It was also clear that the deal did not have the backing of shareholders.

“The equity market’s perception of the broader UK retail property market has deteriorated since the start of the year,” Hammerson’s statement continued.

“This has led to a disconnect between the company’s share price and the fundamental value of its business and prospects.

“This perception has been intensified by market concerns over the extended period of time that it would take to complete the transaction and realise longer-term returns from the Intu acquisition.”

Hammerson, which also owns Cabot Circus in Bristol, said it would sell assets and invest more in premium outlets and Ireland.

Cabot Circus shopping complex
Image:Hammerson owns the Cabot Circus shopping complex in Bristol

Last week, France’s Klepierre dropped its hostile £5bn takeover bid for Hammerson.

The French company said the board of Hammerson had not provided any “meaningful engagement” on its increased offer.

Shares in Hammerson rose 4% in early London trading, while Intu’s stock tumbled 7%.

Intu said Hammerson’s explanation for calling off the merger was “unsatisfactory” as both companies had issued strong trading updates in recent days.

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