(Sharecast News) - Shopping centre owner Hammerson on Tuesday appointed a new finance director and reported an encouraging rebound in footfall at its English malls after a partial easing of Covid-19 curbs this month.
The company said Himanshu Raja, who was previously finance head at real estate agent Countrywide, would replace James Lenton as chief financial officer.
"Initial footfall recovery in England is encouraging, and around 90% of operators are currently able to trade," Hammerson said in a trading update.
"Footfall is competitive with pre-pandemic levels. Across a seven-day average, footfall at our flagships is around four-fifths of that achieved in the same week in April 2019. This is an improvement of approaching 50% points on reopening in June 2020."
In Scotland, around 30% of occupiers are currently trading, ahead of the current anticipated re-opening on April 26, Hammerson added.
Market conditions "remained challenging" since a results update last month. At group level, 40% of second quarter rent due had been received to date, with the UK collecting 48%, France 23%, and Ireland 34%. An aggregate 46% of first-half rent due has been received.
The company, which owns Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre and Bicester Shopping Village, has been overhauling its business and selling some of its portfolio as it tries to fix its balance sheet. The company reported a £1.7bn loss in 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the shuttering of non-essential shops during several lockdowns in the past year, has magnified the problems of the physical store model retail industry as online competition grows.
Many of the regions where Hammerson operates, including France and Ireland, are still facing restrictions but the company said it expected rent collections to improve this year as restrictions ease.
"All of our French occupiers would benefit from one of the three proposed state aid packages to support rent and fixed costs," the company said.
"It is likely most would wait until the third and most expansive package is passed later this year. We therefore do not expect operational performance in France to materially improve until the second half of the year."
"Having endured the longest lockdown in Europe, in Ireland recent positive Covid data and vaccination trends have enabled the Irish government to indicate a roadmap to reopening non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality in early May with easing of restrictions coming as soon as late May or early June."
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