Land Securities considers Walkie-Talkie block delay

Land Securities may delay building the Walkie-Talkie office block in the City of London as rents in the square mile fall and vacancies rise.

"If we think a pause is the right thing, then we will do it," Land Securities' chief executive, Francis Salway, said yesterday. The company said it had delayed developments before, such as its New Street Square development, which opened this year and now has tenants paying top rates.

The Walkie-Talkie is one of six giant blocks planned for the City under plans championed by the former mayor, Ken Livingstone. Demolition of a building on the site for the 500ft tower is due to end early next year.

Land Securities said that if it did not delay, it could "de-risk" the project by finding a partner or pre-letting at reduced rates.

Britain's biggest commercial property company reported an 8.8 per cent slump in the value of its portfolio to £13.6bn for the year ended 31 March and a pre-tax loss of £889m compared with a £1.98bn profit a year earlier.

But the company said it notched up its best-ever performance against industry benchmarks.

Land Securities said it was making good progress on a planned three-way split of its London property, retail real estate and Trillium outsourcing businesses. The London and retail units had gained provisional AA debt ratings from ratings agencies, unchanged from now, the company said.