Warner upbeat as financial position steadies

Michael Hunt

Warner Estate Holdings, a major owner of shopping centres, industrial estates and offices across the North West, has reduced overall company debt by £2m.

Within an interim management statement released today, covering October to December 2009, Warner said the group was profitable and cash generative in the quarter resulted in a reduction of net debt from £250m to £248m.

Warner owns Birkenhead's 613,000 sq ft The Grange and Pyramids centres and the 320,000 sq ft Market Place and Hall in Bolton as well as the Ashtenne industrial property fund, which has a joint venture with the North West Development Agency to manage industrial estates.

Warner said rental income has been maintained and, in line with property values, management fees have stabilised. Cost saving initiatives continue to be delivered in line with reductions established in the first half of the year. In addition, the group said it has benefited in the quarter from a one off performance fee of £1.1m, arising from periods prior to 2008.

On a like-for-like basis, Warner said contracted rent levels on its managed portfolio have fallen marginally from £144.4m to £143.7m. There has been little sales activity on properties it completely owns. Warner said proceeds of £1.56m were realised from two asset sales at 4% above current valuation.

Warner said there has been a general up-turn in activity on lettings on its London-based properties, which has made substantial progress with reducing voids.

In the statement released on the London Stock Exchange, Warner added: "As we move towards the formal year end revaluation at 31 March 2010, we are encouraged by the growth in investment volumes and the continued valuation recovery across all the main sub-sectors, partly evidenced by a slight rise in the value of the units held by the Group in the Ashtenne Industrial Fund and the Apia Regional Office Fund for the quarter to 31 December 2009."

Warner said a general meeting is planned shortly to approve a suspension of the borrowing limit in the articles of association.

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