C&R is reporting another strong set of results. Adjusted profit, which reflects the underlying performance of the business, has risen by 8.6% from £26.8 million to £29.1 million. Given the very challenging retail environment we have seen for much of the year, this result is an endorsement of the resilience of the existing portfolio together with the impact of key asset management initiatives at Walthamstow and Wood Green, in particular, which positively impacted income in 2017. Profit for the period, at £22.4 million, compares with a loss in 2016 of £4.4 million which reflected a revaluation loss and an £11 million charge in relation to implementing the new debt structure.
Both Net Asset Value per share and EPRA Net Asset Value per share of 67 pence compare with 68 pence as at 30 December 2016. This modest decline reflects the strong performance of our assets based in and around London offset by some yield expansion in those outside of the Greater London area.
The appointment of a new Chief Executive has afforded the opportunity for a root and branch review of strategy. Lawrence Hutchings has provided the Board with recommendations on how this should evolve and on how execution can be enhanced in light of the fast changing and challenging retail landscape. This has been debated extensively and endorsed by the Board. The management team subsequently communicated the strategy to investors in December 2017.
C&R is well placed to benefit from increasing polarisation within the shopping centre market which is driving consumers to separate visits to premium destinations for their “wants”, and to convenient local venues, which focus on their regular value and essential non-discretionary spending, for their “needs”. The Group’s community malls have benefitted from the rebasing of rents since the global financial crisis. This makes them appealing to retailers, who can generate a high proportion of their profits from this segment due to the attractive dynamic between rental levels and sales performance. To be successful, community malls still need to deliver a quality product tailored to the needs of the individual communities that they serve. Furthermore, creativity and investment are required to deliver a superior experience as the occupier mix continues to evolve, to further reflect categories which perform best in physical stores in an increasingly omnichannel environment. C&R’s management platform remains a source of real differentiation given the ever more critical need for intensive management of these community malls to continually renew, adapt and implement changes. The success of pilot projects in Ilford and Maidstone demonstrates how responsive consumers can be to this approach and the disproportionately large impact even quite minor changes can have.
C&R is reporting another strong set of results with Adjusted Profit, which reflects the underlying performance of the business, increasing by 8.6% to £29.1 million.
We continued our record of year-on-year energy improvements reducing our total consumption by more than 10% in 2017. Our expertise not only helps to reduce our environmental impact but also helps us lower our own costs and maintain a very competitive service charge for our retailer customers.
We have also stepped up the training of our operational teams to ensure that they remain as prepared as possible for any potential threat. Our “go to critical plans” were successfully implemented for periods during the year in response to national security concerns, with our centre teams working closely with local emergency services.
The award of an 11th consecutive Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (“ROSPA”) Gold award again underlines our focus on health and occupational safety standards across our shopping centres.
Community engagement remains at the heart of our business and our commitment was demonstrated through a number of initiatives during the year, including the launch of a new dedicated community hub at Maidstone as part of the pilot project.
The Board is recommending a final dividend of 1.91 pence per share taking the full year dividend to 3.64 pence per share. This represents an increase of 7.4% over the 2016 full year dividend of 3.39 pence per share, in line with previous guidance. The dividend is comfortably covered by underlying earnings with a pay-out ratio of 88.8% compared to 88.7% in 2016. Our strategic asset management masterplans, now implemented across our portfolio following our successes at Ilford and Maidstone, underpin our objective of delivering annual dividend growth in a range of 5–8% over the medium term.
I would like to thank all our staff for their hard work during what has been an exciting but challenging year for the business while managing the evolution in strategy. I would also like to congratulate the Snozone team who were awarded the Best Sporting Venue at the UK School Travel awards, beating Manchester United’s museum and stadium tours, Twickenham Stadium, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Association and the National Football Museum to this prestigious award.
There have been a number of changes in the composition of the Board during the year, reflecting the significant amount of time the Board had devoted in the previous 12 months to ensuring a successful senior management succession plan was in place. John Clare stepped down as chairman on 13 June 2017 after seven years on the Board. John played a key role in leading C&R through a series of changes that were transformational for the Group’s prospects. Ken Ford stepped down as an Executive Director on 9 May 2017 and left the Group on 31 December 2017 after over 20 years of committed service. Ken was one of the architects of C&R and the Group’s position as a leading owner of community shopping centres. I would like to thank both John and Ken on behalf of the Board for their contribution over many years.
We were very pleased to welcome Lawrence Hutchings to the Board as Chief Executive on 13 June 2017. Lawrence brings extensive retail property expertise from his time at Hammerson and, more recently, Blackstone in Australia. He has quickly made a very positive impact in terms of the repositioning of the business, facilitating in the process my transition to Non-executive Chairman.