Partner sought for Bull Ring project

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The Independent Online
LONDON & Edinburgh Trust, the ailing property company, is in talks to bring in a partner for its pounds 500m redevelopment of Birmingham's landmark Bull Ring complex.

The company said yesterday it had been negotiating with Don and Roy Richardson, the millionaire twins who own a string of development sites in the West Midlands.

LET, which last month announced a pre-tax loss of pounds 448.6m, denied suggestions that it wanted to offload the whole scheme. But the Richardsons, best known for their development of the giant Merry Hill shopping centre near Wolverhampton, indicated they might be prepared to purchase the 22-acre Bull Ring site.

A partner for the development would ease LET's financial problems. It was bought by the Swedish insurer SPP for pounds 491m in 1990, a purchase which was heavily criticised because the UK property market had peaked.

Massive losses suffered by Swedish investors in overseas property have compounded the financial crisis in Sweden caused by the collapse of their own property market.

Graham Cole, an LET retail executive, said the company had no intention of withdrawing from its commitment to redevelop the Bull Ring.

'We are not actively selling our buildings in the Bull Ring,' he said. 'But it is appropriate that we talk to other parties.'

Redevelopment work on the Bull Ring, a much-derided example of 1960s civic architecture, would not start for at least two years, he added.

This would be eight years after LET first became involved in the project, which has been delayed by the property recession and dogged by controversy over designs for 1 million square feet of retail space, an office block and parking for 3,000 cars.