LMS net assets drop 17% as London rents decline

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The Independent Online
FALLING rents in the West End led to a 17 per cent drop in net assets last year at London Merchant Securities, the property investment company, writes Tom Stevenson. The decline has prompted LMS to step up its diversification from offices into retail sites and to widen its search for properties beyond the capital.

In contrast to the reduction in shareholders' funds from pounds 312m to pounds 258m, rental income and profits both rose. Nicholas Driver, the director responsible for property valuations, said that since the year-end the London property market had picked up and there had been a lot of interest in two new office schemes.

Mr Driver said planning permission had been obtained for the third phase of a retail park in Scotland, which now extends to more than 200,000 square feet, with room for more than 1,000 cars. The park is fully let to tenants including Argos, Texas and B&Q.

After a pounds 4.7m contribution from LMS's 15 per cent stake in First Leisure, pre-tax profits emerged at pounds 25.6m (pounds 24m). There was also a one-off payment from BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster, of pounds 2.9m representing a fee for guaranteeing part of a pounds 450m loan for three years.

The dividend rose from 3.8p to 4p and LMS's shares ended unchanged at 98.5p yesterday.

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