Yorkshire firms get on with the job instead of blaming everyone else - Ros Snowdon

TCS said the refurbishment of 123 Albion Street, Leeds has now completedTCS said the refurbishment of 123 Albion Street, Leeds has now completed
TCS said the refurbishment of 123 Albion Street, Leeds has now completed
Yorkshire firms proved during the banking crisis of 2008/2009 that they are a resilient breed and that is also proving to be the case during the coronavirus crisis.

As Town Centre Security’s chief executive Edward Ziff said yesterday: “This has been a very challenging time, but I believe that when the going gets tough, the true strengths of a business emerge.”

Yorkshire companies are doing what they do best - not moaning, not blaming the virus, not blaming the British public for failing to take adequate safety measures, but just quietly getting on with the day job and repositioning their businesses to adapt to the crisis.

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This week, Leeds-based property developer, Town Centre Securities, said it is now recovering from the crisis after taking a £3.6m hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm, which owns the Merrion Centre and a number of office developments throughout the North, said its results for the year to June 30 were disappointing, but the impact of Covid-19 has been unprecedented and a high degree of uncertainty remains.

From March to June, the lockdown resulted in a £3.6m Covid-19 hit for the company, including £2m in lost car parking income, a £1.2m impact in the property business, primarily due to bad debt, and a £400,000 hit from reduced bookings for its ibis Styles hotel.

TCS said its retail and leisure tenants were hardest hit. These assets have seen valuations drop by 12 per cent year on year, accounting for £23m of a total £26m fall in valuation.

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Rather than moan about rents not being paid by struggling retailers and leisure firms, TCS is adapting its business to focus on growth areas, namely sought-after office developments and residential properties.

Retail and leisure now account for just 47 per cent of the firm’s portfolio, down from 50 per cent a year ago and 70 per cent in 2016.

This level will reduce to 42 per cent following the sales announced earlier this week.

TCS has sold four retail properties in Scotland and London for a total sum of £35.2m. The units include two Waitrose stores, an Aldi/Home Bargains store and a high street retail store in London.

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TCS said the refurbishment of 123 Albion Street, Leeds (previously known as The Cube), continued during lockdown and has now completed, further reducing its exposure to retail and leisure.

The £4m office investment is expected to deliver an ongoing post investment yield of over 8.5 per cent and TCS said interest in the space is strong.

The firm has two potential occupiers for 123 Albion Street and both are in discussions about possibly taking over the whole building.

As part of its repositioning, residential property is going to become a bigger part of the group’s portfolio as the need for more housing increases.

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Mr Ziff said there is still a real shortage of homes in this country, whether they be city centre residential, edge of city or suburban residential.

Residential makes up just 6 per cent of TCS’s portfolio at the moment and Mr Ziff sees this growing to 20 per cent.

Since the end of the lockdown, the car parking business has seen strong trading.

“Since we’ve seen a return to some sort of normality, the pick up in demand for our car parking has been really strong,” said Mr Ziff.

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As retail, leisure and to an extent, office space, take a long term Covid hit, TCS is turning its sights on the two growth areas of residential and car parking.

Mr Ziff said the firm was very disappointed to break its 60-year track record of delivering a maintained or increased dividend, although it was pleased to be able to keep its commitment to pay the interim dividend.

He said the board is using this time to reset and reinvigorate the business.

Mr Ziff said that in the longer term, he believes TCS will emerge as a stronger business and look to the future with confidence.

It’s the Yorkshire way - get on, knuckle down and don’t blame everyone but yourself. It is a lesson that Westminster could learn from.

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