Hammerson, Intu to create European shopping mall giant

LONDON: British retail property group Hammerson has agreed to buy rival Intu to create a pan-European shopping mall business, the pair said Wednesday, faced with increasing pressure from online retailers.
The all-share deal is worth £3.4 billion ($4.5 billion, 3.8 billion euros), or 253.9 pence per Intu share, said a statement.
It is aimed at diversifying Hammerson’s portfolio and creating a £21-billion retail and leisure conglomerate, while maintaining the Intu brand.
Intu owns shopping centres including the Trafford Centre in Manchester, northwest England, as well as properties in Spain.
Hammerson meanwhile counts Brent Cross shopping centre in north London and the Les Terrasses du Port in Marseilles, southern France in its portfolio.
Hammerson hopes to increase its exposure to the growing markets of Ireland and Spain, while offloading predominantly UK-based property across both groups to recoup £2.0 billion.
Wednesday’s announcement comes as high UK inflation is putting pressure on Britons’ spending power.
“A combination of both Intu and Hammerson will create a more resilient, diversified and stronger group that we believe will benefit all our stakeholders,” said Intu chairman John Strachan.
“Intu offers high-quality retail and leisure destinations in the UK and Spain, which when merged with Hammerson’s own top-quality assets in the UK, in France and in Ireland, present a highly attractive proposition for retailers and shoppers in Europe’s leading cities.”
Hammerson shareholders will own 55 percent of the new group and Intu the remainder, while Hammerson chairman David Tyler and its chief executive David Atkins will hold the same titles at the enlarged business.
“The financial strength of the enlarged group and its strong leadership team will make it well-placed to take advantage of higher growth opportunities on a pan-European scale,” said Tyler.
The companies will face one-off integration cash costs of around £40 million.
“The cost of living squeeze on UK consumers from higher inflation is forcing companies like Hammerson and Intu into action,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at traders London Capital Group.
Meanwhile “online shopping means shopping centres… are in a long-term malaise”, he added.
On Monday, troubled retailer Toys”R”Us announced the closure of one quarter of its British stores.
The US company, which recently filed for bankruptcy in its home market as it struggles to compete with the likes of Amazon, said its larger UK stores no longer made economic sense and that the future lay with smaller outlets.