UK's Hammerson plans equity raise, stake sale to cushion pandemic blow

(Reuters) – British Mall operator Hammerson (HMSO.L) said on Monday it was considering a rights issue and was in advanced talks to sell its stake in a joint venture as it looks to raise cash to tide over the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has brought mall operators, already struggling with hefty debt load, to the brink as stay-at-home orders crushed their main source of income – rent payments from struggling retailers.

The owner of the Bullring mall in Birmingham, however, said mall visits and sales were improving after it reopened its flagship destinations across Europe, and reported a 30% increase in third-quarter rent collection.

The company said it planned to sell its 50% stake in VIA Outlets to partner APG, but did not disclose further details on the sale as well as the rights issues it is considering to raise cash.

Sky News, which first reported the news of equity raise and the disposal on Saturday, said the company intends to raise some 800 million pounds ($1.05 billion).

VIA Outlets is a retail joint venture between Hammerson and Dutch pension fund APG, whose portfolio includes fashion outlets in Amsterdam, Gothenburg and Prague.

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