L&A Trust expects rise in portfolio

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LONDON & Associated Investment Trust, the property investor that owns 550 shops mainly in the North and Midlands, expects the value of its portfolio to rise by at least 10 per cent this year thanks to increasing interest from institutions in retail shopping centres.

Michael Heller, chairman, said empty shops represented only 2 per cent of its portfolio, a low figure by industry standards. He said all the company's properties were currently worth more than their purchase price.

With more than two-thirds of the shops rented to national or regional chains, Mr Heller said the quality of the company's earnings was high.

He added that all interest charges had been taken against the profit-and-loss account, not capitalised, and that there were no development projects in hand.

Pre-tax profits rose 32 per cent in the six months to June from pounds 540,000 to pounds 713,000, after a 12 per cent increase in gross income. The interim dividend was 0.05p, paid from earnings per share of 0.64p (0.5p).

LAIT said it planned to add to its portfolio as opportunities arose but would keep its gearing below 70 per cent.

With LAIT having recently bought a shopping centre in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, for pounds 4m, current borrowings of pounds 13m represented 49 per cent of shareholders' funds.

LAIT owns a 42 per cent stake in Bisichi Mining, a property and mining finance company, which also announced its results yesterday.

Bisichi's profits were 31 per cent higher at pounds 102,000 and its earnings per share rose by 35 per cent to 0.74p.