British Land defers €44m in rents, suspends dividend payments

UK REIT British Land will defer a total of £40 mln (€44 mln) in rents this quarter, spreading the repayment over six quarters from September 2020 in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The company, whose portfolio includes 41% of retail assets, said on Thursday that its immediate priority is to support those customers who are being hardest hit. ‘At sites we control, we are therefore releasing our smaller retail, food & beverage and leisure customers from their rental obligations for three months (April to June),’ it said in a statement.

On the sites the company holds in joint venture or via fund structures, British Land is working with its partners to agree an appropriate approach.

The property giant also said that it is temporarily suspending dividend payments as a precautionary move. ‘To best ensure we can effectively support our retail and leisure customers who are hardest hit, protect the long-term value of the business, and further strengthen our financial position, the board considers it prudent to temporarily suspend future dividend payments,’ it said in a statement. British Land will revisit its dividend policy as soon as it has more clarity on future outlook.

In addition, the company has extended and amended one of its unsecured Revolving Credit Facilities (RCF) with a value of £450 mln.

‘We have £1.2 bn of available cash and undrawn facilities and no requirement to refinance until 2024. Our leverage remains low, with LTV of 31% at 30 September 2019 and we retain significant headroom to our debt covenants,’ British Land said.

The company estimates that it could withstand 50% valuation declines without any issues with lenders.

Meanwhile, work has been suspended at the company’s major development schemes at 100 Liverpool Street and 1 Triton Square ‘to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those working on site’. The company now expect delays to practical completion at these sites.