UPDATE 1-UK's Intu Properties in talks with investors for equity raise

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Jan 20 (Reuters) - British shopping centre operator Intu Properties said on Monday it was in talks with shareholders and potential new investors for an equity raise by the end of February in a bid to shore up its balance sheet.

Intu has been hit by a recent spate of high-profile failures in the retail industry, with many companies shutting shop to cut costs and focus on online sales in a tough British economic environment.

In early November, the owner of Manchester’s Trafford Centre said it was considering raising equity, along with sale of assets, to trim its balance sheet.

“We are making good progress with fixing the balance sheet, our number one priority,” Intu said in a statement, adding that it sold off nearly 500 million pounds worth of shopping centres in 2019 and talks to sell intu Asturias were at advanced stages.

A report by the Sunday Times said Intu was planning to tap 1 billion pounds ($1.30 billion) of emergency cash as soon as next month.

Intu said 97% of rent had been collected to date for the first quarter of 2020, demonstrating the lower risk of its current customer base.

Intu has bore the brunt of company voluntary agreements - an insolvency procedure used by retailers to restructure leases - from brands including Debenhams, Toys R Us, House of Fraser, New Look and HMV. ($1 = 0.7704 pounds) (Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Anil D’Silva)