Land Securities posts loss as UK store closures bite

(Reuters) - British property developer Land Securities Group LAND.L reported a pretax loss for the first half, hit by a raft of store closures as retailers face the impact of slack consumer sentiment and the shift to more online selling.

Land Securities, which manages and operates office, retail and leisure segments, is offloading assets to focus on its profit-generating London portfolio, hoping it would offset the impact of a crumbling retail market.

The company, which owns the Bluewater shopping centre in southeast England, pointed to high number of company voluntary agreements (CVA) by retailers, like its peer Intu Properties INTUP.L last week, and said it expected the trend to continue.

Many retailers are closing stores to cut costs and focus on online sales in a tough British economic environment, with Mothercare MTC.L shutting all its British stores.

The British economy, hurt by years of uncertainty over its exit from the European Union, is gearing up for a snap poll next month which will decide the nation’s future and would also affect UK Plc.

“With a general election next month and the UK’s proposed exit from the EU further delayed, we remain alert to market risks. However, Landsec enters the next six months with confidence”, Chief Executive Officer Robert Noel said.

The company’s EPRA net asset value (NAV)- a key industry metric that reflects the value of a firm’s buildings, was down 3.2% to 1,296 pence.

However, Land Securities said its vacancy rates were relatively low.

The FTSE-100 company recorded a loss of 147 million pounds ($188.10 million) for the six-month period ended Sept. 30, compared with a profit of 42 million pounds, a year earlier.

Reporting by Samantha Machado and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Shailesh Kuber