Belfast Telegraph

Crown Estate ready for market pause as income hits new high

The Royal Family's commercial property arm said the business could cope with a bout of political and economic uncertainty after delivering a record boost to the Treasury's coffers.

The Crown Estate said its income return had hit a new high, rising 8.1% to £328.8 million for 2016/17 in contrast to the year before.

The boost was underpinned by rubber stamping leasing agreements on finished developments, including London's St James's Market, One New Burlington Place and 7 Air Street.

However, chief executive Alison Nimmo said returns were likely to be subdued in the months ahead, adding that the market was set for a "pause rather than a downturn".

She said: "This outperformance reflects many years of disciplined market positioning in our chosen sectors and has made our business resilient at a time of political and economic uncertainty.

"For over a decade we've carefully timed our development pipeline, focused on creating brilliant places in the best locations and maintained our active support of the UK's world-leading offshore wind sector."

She added: "We think it's important to look at the market more broadly than simply through the lens of the UK's relationship with the EU.

"All in all, we look at the market as being positioned for a pause, rather than a downturn and we're confident in the strength of our markets."

The bumper results means the organisation has now returned a total of £2.6 billion for the public finances over the past 10 years.

It said its property portfolio value had risen by 5.5% to £12.4 billion in the past year, while its capital value had stepped up by 2% to £13.1 billion.

More than 400,000 sq ft of retail and office space was let throughout central London over the period, raking in total rent of £34.4 million per year.

However, its strongest valuation came from its offshore wind portfolio, which expanded by 18% to £1.1 billion.

Ms Nimmo added: "Looking ahead, we expect returns to remain subdued, but we are confident in the underlying strength of our markets and our commitment to quality in what we deliver.

"Following a record year of capital activity, this year will see the launch of two major retail schemes at Rushden and in Oxford, and the continued preparation of the next phase of our development pipeline in central London that will form the backbone of our long-term performance."