Earlier in December it was reported that the retail ‘giant’ Hammerson, which owns 23 UK shopping centres, is taking over Intu which owns 20 in the UK. Some have speculated about what Hammerson will do with their combined assets – it has been suggested (Russell Lynch, London Evening Standard) that Hammerson will build on Intu’s assets and experience in Spain by expanding there, and sell off some of the poorer performing UK centres to raise £2bn to do so.
But, who will want to buy the more marginal shopping centres and why?
I say that Hammerson will sell these off for redevelopment into residential sites, or mixed use residential sites with retail below and residential above (or entering into Joint Venture deals to do so). In general I think we will see owners of shopping centres discovering the opportunities which are available from the current policy for the intensification of town centres in order to proved more housing. So, watch out for this.
This brings me to a general concern of mine – the ownership of town centres by a single or dominant company, and the increasing tendency for the UK’s retail facilities to be concentrated into the ownership of a few large companies, especially if the income streams are then shipped abroad.