MARKET REPORT: Intu Properties suffers as store closures and renegotiated rents hammer revenues

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The High Street has not been the only victim of the crisis decimating Britain’s retail sector.

Sprawling American-style malls have been similarly afflicted, despite often hosting entertainment venues such as cinemas and restaurants alongside shops.

Intu Properties, which owns Lakeside in Essex and Manchester’s Trafford Centre, has suffered as store closures and renegotiated rents hammered revenues, leaving it nursing a near-£900m loss in the six months to June 30.

But Intu’s luck could change, with weekend reports suggesting that Orion Capital Managers is on the hunt for partners to buy out the shopping centre owner.

European private equity group Orion, which already holds a 9.2 per cent stake in the firm, would need collaborators as it is thought a buyer will need to be able to refinance the company’s hefty debt pile.

Intu’s debt stands at around £4.7 billion, but analysts believe it is close to breaching agreements on around £1.1 billion.

Intu’s stock rose by as much as 17 per cent in early trading, but lost some gains to close 10.5 per cent higher, up 3.82p, to 40.32p.

But Intu’s surge wasn’t quite enough to push the FTSE 250 into the black. The mid-cap index closed down 0.14 per cent, or 27.07 points, to 19678.45, while the FTSE 100 finished 0.64 per cent lower, down 46.53 points, to 7325.81.

The Footsie’s oil majors, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, made gains as the Brent crude oil price rose 3.6 per cent to $62.74 a barrel last night.

It came as Saudi Arabia’s new energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said there would not be a radical change in the country’s oil policy.

This means Saudi is set to continue working with other major oil producing states to put limits on how much oil they can produce – a policy which has been keeping prices in check for almost four years now.

Shell shares climbed 0.5 per cent, or 11.5p, to 2267.5p, while BP’s also rose 0.8 per cent, or 3.8p, to 504.8p.

British American Tobacco lost ground after its director of scientific research, Dr David O’Reilly, said ‘non-reputable’ vaping firms were responsible for several deaths linked to e-cigarettes in the US.

American health officials have approached vaping with scepticism and told the US public last week that smokers should stop using e-cigarettes until probes into five deaths thought to be related to the activity, which is usually seen as a smoking substitute, have been completed.

Tobacco giants are relying on vaping to fill the hole left in their earnings by the widespread rejection of smoking in the West.

Shares ended the day down 1.2 per cent, or 36.5p, to 2895.5p, while Footsie-listed peer Imperial finished virtually flat, up 0.1 per cent, or 1p, at 2136p.

Components and packaging maker Essentra advanced 2.2 per cent, or 9p, to 411.4p, after it bought Spanish group Nekicesa Packaging, which makes leaflets and labels for the pharmaceutical and beauty industry.

Oil and gas group-turned-cannabidiol maker Highlands Natural Resources announced that from today it will trade under its new name, Zoetic International.

The Denver-based company is now focusing on its rapidly expanding business to make CBD products – though perhaps it failed to notice that ‘Highlands’ was a name already well-placed for cannabis-inspired punning. Shares fell 3.1 per cent, or 0.15p, to 4.7p.

AIM investors, meanwhile, will have been buoyed by figures released by financial data firm Link Group, which found dividends from AIM companies jumped by 23.9 per cent between January and June, reaching a record total of £633m when one-off dividends were included.



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