Shaftesbury extends rent support for tenants after government tells people to work from home

Business

West End landlord Shaftesbury is extending rental support to tenants to help them cope with the government’s new lockdown rules that encourage people to work from home.

The company, which owns swathes of Chinatown and Carnaby Street, revealed its assistance plan as it updated on trading for April 1 to September 24.

During the period the company saw numerous retailers, restaurants and pubs have to shut sites for months due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Shaftesbury said the West End had seen a gradual recovery in footfall, but a number of occupiers are reporting considerably lower turnover than prior to the coronavirus outbreak. It agreed packages of support for businesses that are struggling, such as rent waivers, deferrals and lease restructures.

The property firm, led by Brian Bickell, said 41% of rents due for the six months to September 30 have been collected, 10% are expected to be subject to deferred collection arrangements, 23% are being waived and 26% remained outstanding as at September 11.

Shaftesbury added: “In view of growing uncertainty surrounding the timing of the return to more-normal footfall and trading conditions in the West End, and the impact of restrictions now being re-introduced by the Government, we are extending our support arrangements by a further three months to the end of December 2020.”

The government has ordered pubs and restaurants to start shutting at 10pm and advised people to work from home where possible, as part of measures to tackle a rise in coronavirus cases.

Shaftesbury will not declare a final dividend for the year to September, but intends to resume dividend payments as soon as it considers prudent.

Shaftesbury’s chief executive Bickell said: “The course of the pandemic in the short and medium term will continue to dictate the extent of restrictions imposed by the UK and other governments to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus, with implications for the global economy and the pace of recovery. As an international destination, local trading conditions in the West End will inevitably be affected by these macro uncertainties.”

He added: “Longer term, the exceptional qualities and features of London and the West End provide firm foundations for recovery as pandemic disruption recedes.”

Bickell said: “The announcements this week have not been helpful, but we have seen that people are coming back to the West End, whether for work or leisure. We think that trend will continue into christmas.”