LONDON-Great Portland Estates has sold its last four shopping centres, leaving it with a portfolio almost entirely devoted to central London properties. But the new focus came too late to prevent a disappointing fall in net asset value for the six months ended 30 September, 2001.

The company has sold Charter Walk, Burnley; Queen’s Arcade, Cardiff; The Harvey Centre, Harlow and The Octagon Centre, High Wycombe to the Sapphire Retail Fund–a joint venture between Stannifer and Bank of Scotland–for £235 million ($333 million) in cash. The shopping centres produce £17.7 million ($25 million) per annum, showing the purchasers an initial yield of 7.5%. King Sturge Retail advised the purchaser.

GPE’s portfolio is now 95% weighted towards central London offices, residential and retail, which chairman Richard Peskin sees as a strong defensive position. He said: ‘The events of 11 September have only served to increase the feelings of uncertainty which were already appearing as a result of the global economic slowdown. However, over the past few months we have taken further sensible actions to position the company to take advantage of opportunities which may arise, and we believe that the Central London market in which we are now concentrated will remain robust in the medium term.’

However, stagnating rental growth in central London offices, coupled with a further weakening of yields, drove down values, and GPE saw its net asset value per share fall over the six months to 389p, while the valuation of the portfolio fell 2.1% to £1.4 billion ($2 billion).

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