Hammerson sees signs of recovery

ANGLO-French property investor Hammerson posted a 13 per cent rise in net asset value since June and signalled ambitious development plans in France.

The bluechip investor, which owns or holds stakes in some of Europe's most popular malls, such the Birmingham Bullring in England and the Italie 2 mall in Paris, said the value of its properties fell 9 per cent to 5.1bn in the year to end-December, having rebounded 6 per cent since June.

Hammerson said occupiers remained cautious about leasing space, but it signed 395 leases over 176,000 square metres of property in 2009.

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Property sales compressed its annual rental income to about 294m, up 1.1 percent on a like-for-like basis.

It said it would start construction work on the 30m redevelopment of 54-60 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris and the 400m redevelopment of Les Terrasses du Port, Marseille, later this year. The schemes are 100 per cent and 40 perc ent pre-let respectively.

"Recently there has been a recovery in property markets, supported by strong investor demand and the policy of central banks supporting financial markets," chairman John Nelson said.

"The economic outlook, however, remains uncertain, and against this background the board intends to maintain a prudent approach to financing," he said.

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Hammerson's gearing stood at 72 per cent at end-2009, compared with 118 percent at end-2008.

Hammerson is linked to a number of stalled shopping centre schemes. It is a partner in plans to develop the Sevenstone retail quarter in Sheffield. The proposal includes a retail development with a new John Lewis store at its heart.