Property developer St Modwen is to sell off more than a quarter of its shopping centre portfolio, with the deals coming amid a prolonged retail slump.
The group said on Wednesday that it will dispose of two retail assets – the Longbridge Shopping Park in Birmingham and Wembley Central in London.
Together, they represent 27% of St Modwen’s retail portfolio.
Longbridge, which St Modwen has helped redevelop as part of a £1 billion regeneration project, will be sold to Zurich Assurance for £53.6 million.
Wembley will be sold to an unspecified buyer.
These disposals are in line with our strategic objective to increase our portfolio focus on assets with better structural growth characteristicsChief executive Mark Allan
The move comes as the retail sector buckles under the weight of soaring costs, high inflation and declining consumer confidence.
It has led to hundreds of store closures at the likes of Toys R Us and Maplin, resulting in thousands of job losses.
To illustrate the malaise, figures from the BRC (British Retail Consortium)-KPMG showed retail sales in April decreased by 4.2% on a like-for-like basis compared with last year.
But chief executive Mark Allan said St Modwen’s move was linked to a strategy to focus on the group’s “logistics pipeline”.
He added: “These disposals are in line with our strategic objective to increase our portfolio focus on assets with better structural growth characteristics and our intention to sell £100-150 million of retail and small assets during 2018.
“We plan to use the capital we release via these sales to bring forward future phases of Longbridge and accelerate the delivery of our 7.5 million sq ft near-term industrial/logistics development pipeline.”
Warehouses have become popular investments recently as the rise of online shopping has led to a requirement for larger properties to store goods.
Russ Mould, AJ Bell investment director, said: “The natural temptation is to put the weak British Retail Consortium sales figures together with St Modwen’s decision to sell around a quarter of its retail property portfolio and come up with yet further gloomy headlines – but perhaps investors need to think a little harder.
“Maybe they need to look at this through the eyes of the buyer of the St Modwen assets and ask themselves what the purchaser is seeing that they are not? The answer may be ‘value’ amid the torrent of cautious commentary on retail, property and the UK economy more generally.”