Hold tight for tough year, warns MEPC

JAMES TUCKEY, chairman of MEPC, Britain's third largest property company, yesterday warned that 1999 is going to be a tough year for the economy and the property market.

Announcing a 2 per cent dip in full-year pre-tax profit before exceptional items to pounds 142m, Mr Tuckey said: "MEPC can take advantage of any correction in the property market, due to our strong balance sheet and clear idea of where we want to put our money.

"As long as institutional investors sit on the sidelines, there will be buying opportunities for MEPC."

MEPC, whose disposal of its US and Australian operations over the last 12 months resulted in pounds 400m being returned to shareholders, is now focusing on offices in central and west London and the retail sector.

Mr Tuckey predicted that recent consolidations within the banking sector would hit property values in the City. "I am glad we don't have any letting exposure in the City," he added.

The figures were broadly in line with expectations, and the share price rose 1 per cent to 404p, a significant discount to the net asset value of 549p.

One analyst explained that this discrepancy was common to the sector, but that "takeover bids always push the share price towards net asset value".