Town Centre sees good progress

Edward Ziff, chairman and CEO of Town Centre Securities, in his office overlooking LeedsEdward Ziff, chairman and CEO of Town Centre Securities, in his office overlooking Leeds
Edward Ziff, chairman and CEO of Town Centre Securities, in his office overlooking Leeds
Property investor Town Centre Securities said it produced a resilient performance over the past year despite economic and political uncertainty following the Brexit referendum.

The Leeds-based firm reported ​good progress at the Merrion Centre and said the Arena Quarter is now fully let which will add another £155,000 annualised to income.

​The Merrion Centre saw record breaking visitor numbers with 11.5m visitors over the year – an increase of 3.4 per cent on the previous year.

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TCS ​​chairman and chief executive Edward Ziff said: "We fully let the Arena Quarter in the first half which completes the £17m scheme which has transformed the north side of the centre. On a like for like basis the rent roll has risen by 3.3 per cent and the occupancy is at 99 per cent.

"We had a couple of false starts with one or two of the units. The Arena started off very strong, then there was a period of weakness and now we're seeing good demand again."

TCS recently acquired the remaining 50 per cent of Buckley House in Leeds from the Evans Property Group. Previously this property was held in a joint venture with TCS owning 50 per cent.

"It is an excellent time to achieve 100 per cent ownership of this property as it completes our island site which is immediately outside the new Victoria Gate John Lewis scheme and we expect retail demand in this location to improve significantly over the next few years," said Mr Ziff.

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After the Manchester Arena was closed following the terror attack in May, several top name acts including Celine Dion moved to the Leeds Arena.

"All arenas will be affected by that sort of atrocity, but it's the same as the tube. People stopped travelling for a while, but they drift back," said Mr Ziff.

He said the group made good progress over the year to June 30 despite the Brexit vote.

"This time last year we didn't know what the hell was coming our way. We were worried about how the market would respond," said Mr Ziff.

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"Volumes are up and yields are strong. The retail market is under a bit of a cloud - predominantly Brexit driven - but we have carried on doing our own thing.

" A year ago there was uncertainty with three big developments, but we've managed to get through it. People are visiting and spending money in Leeds."

The group has raised its full year dividend by 4.5 per cent to 11.5p. Statutory pre-tax profit ​fell from £11.9m to ​£6.7m, reflecting a property revaluation deficit of £1.1m this year against a surplus of £3.5m last year. EPRA pre-tax profit rose 6.7 per cent to £7.0m.

TCS expects to complete on Merrion House in Leeds next January and the ibis Styles Hotel in Leeds completed in March and is trading above expectations.

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"I am delighted with the progress we have made in this financial year against a challenging backdrop," said Mr Ziff.

Analysts at Liberum said in a note: "TCS offers exposure to lagged recovery in regional property as well as significant value potential in development activity.

"A conservative management team, aligned with shareholder interest and focused on cash return, provides added attraction."