Business

Hammerson sees strong profits at shopping centres

Hammerson's Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham
Image caption Both the number of shops and shoppers at Hammerson's retail centres rose in 2010

Hammerson, the owner of some of the country's best-known shopping centres, saw profits rise last year - but added it is cautious about the future.

The company, which owns London's Brent Cross and Birmingham's Bullring, made pre-tax profits of £620m, boosted by property sales and revaluations.

Stripping out these, underlying profits were up 11.2% to £144.5m for the year.

But Hammerson warned that the VAT rise and public spending cuts could see retailers fall behind with their rents.

"The effects of increased taxation and restrictions on government spending may mean that some tenants, principally in the UK retail sector, face difficult operating conditions and there is a risk that they will be unable to pay their rents," the company said.

Mixed blessing

Over the year, occupancy at its centres rose to 97.3% from 95.4% and the number of people visiting them also rose.

It also said the severe winter snow had had a mixed impact.

The worst weather had kept people away but once conditions improved, the enclosed shopping centre environment attracted consumers, Hammerson said.

"When we had the very extreme levels of snow some people had some difficulties getting to our schemes," chief executive David Atkins told the BBC.

"But generally with the cold weather, coming to our big car parks, coming in under cover, having some of the best brands on offer alongside a cup of tea or cup of coffee - overall that's what the shopper wants."

Hammerson shares were up 1.72% at close.

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