Belfast Telegraph

Tourist boom boosts London property firm

West End property giant Shaftesbury has rung up a 28% jump in half-year profits amid booming tourist trade in London from the Brexit-hit pound.

The group - which owns swathes of shops and restaurants spanning Covent Garden, Soho and Chinatown - said its retail and leisure tenants were seeing strong sales growth as surging tourist spend has helped the West End "flourish".

Tourists have been flocking to London to take advantage of the pound's plunge since the Brexit vote, with luxury brands such as Burberry reporting impressive sales hikes in recent months.

Shaftesbury reported profits of £102.4 million for the six months to March 31, up from £80.1 million a year earlier.

The net asset value of its portfolio - a key measure for property firms - rose 3.4% to £2.5 billion.

Brian Bickell, chief executive of Shaftesbury, said: " Across our portfolio, the data we collect is showing a clear trend of year-on-year turnover growth for our restaurant, leisure and retail tenants, reflecting the buoyancy of the West End's economy."

It defies fears elsewhere over a spending slowdown, caused by the weak pound's impact on inflation and household finances.

Shaftesbury said: "Although there are currently some national indications of slowing domestic consumer spending and confidence, in contrast, the West End continues to benefit from increasing numbers of international visitors, whose spending power has been enhanced by the recent strength of their local currencies against sterling since the referendum."

Shaftesbury added that the West End was well-placed to ride out any consumer downturn.

It said: "The UK faces a period of uncertainty as it negotiates its exit from the EU.

"Whilst this brings a risk of lower business and consumer confidence, we expect the West End, underpinned by its wide appeal and dynamic economy, will maintain its long record of resilience."

The group o wns nearly 600 restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops in the West End, across Carnaby, Seven Dials and Chinatown, as well east and west Covent Garden, Soho and Charlotte Street.

The group said it spent £20 million on refurbishments across 12% of its portfolio, while also splashing out £28 million on acquisitions and making £5.4 million on property sales.

Liberum analyst David Brockton said the interim results showed Shaftesbury had made a "good start to the year".