Hammerson Acquires $477 Million U.K. Mall, Plans 50% Stake Sale

Hammerson Plc bought the Grand Central shopping center in Birmingham, the U.K.’s second largest city, for 335 million pounds ($477 million) from the municipal authority as an economic recovery causes rents to rise.

Hammerson is in talks with an undisclosed partner to sell a 50 percent stake in the mall, which has 435,000 square-feet (40,413 square-meters) of retail space, the London-based landlord said in a statement.

“The acquisition of Grand Central, a highly-prized trophy asset in the U.K.’s second city, is fully aligned with Hammerson’s strategy of owning top-performing retail destinations in prime locations,” Hammerson Chief Executive Officer David Atkins said in the statement.

Disposable income in the West Midlands, the region that includes Birmingham, is rising by 3.5 percent a year, the most in the U.K., boosting demand for stores and restaurants. Strong competition for the best regional shopping centers meant yields fell by 50 basis points, typically a sign of rising values, in the third quarter of last year to 4.25 percent, according to broker Knight Frank LLP.

Hammerson has “taken a bold step in our view, but given the underlying asset quality we expect it to pay off,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts including Tim Leckie wrote in a note to clients. “Given our preference for scale we would perhaps prefer the company to keep 100 percent of the asset.”

Hammerson already owns a 50 percent stake in Bullring, another shopping mall in the city. The landlord will fund the Grand Central deal with an expanded acquisition credit facility of 1.1 billion pounds, according to the statement. After completion of the acquisition of Grand Central, Hammerson’s loan-to-value ratio will be 39 percent, the company said.

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