Payout increased at British Land

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The Independent Online
SHARES in British Land, the UK's third-largest property company, were marked down 9p to 435p yesterday despite a jump in the interim dividend payout and evidence that rents are starting to rise.

John Ritblat, chairman, said: 'The property market has continued to recover to a semblance of normality, orderliness and liquidity. Aside from acts of God or acts of Parliament we can look forward to a good second half.'

Pre-tax profits were pounds 13.2m ( pounds 10.2m), struck from a 7 per cent increase in net rents from pounds 54.4m to pounds 58.1m. Fully diluted earnings per share were 2.9p (3.9p) and the dividend was lifted from 2.28p to 2.45p.

Mr Ritblat criticised the new FRS3 accounting standard, saying it was 'widely recognised as being unsuitable for property investment companies'. Revenue profits, reported on the previous basis, were pounds 18.2m, an increase of 59 per cent.

In June the company set up a pounds 500m joint venture with George Soros, the speculator who bet against the pound before its ERM exit. Mr Ritblat said the fund had already spent more than pounds 135m on properties, including a shopping centre in Basildon and offices in Edinburgh and Birmingham.

British Land has the right to buy out Mr Soros's stake in the venture, which plans to invest pounds 1bn by 1997.

Chelsfield, the property company run by Elliott Bernerd, will be valued at pounds 243m when dealings start in its shares before Christmas.

The group, which owns 60 per cent of the Wentworth Golf Club and a quarter of the Merry Hill shopping centre in Dudley, also announced the acquisition of a pounds 30m portfolio of properties from the Allied-Lyons pension fund.

Chelsfield plans to place 32.3 million shares at 155p, raising pounds 50m, half of which will be available to the public via an intermediaries offer. A further 25.7 million shares are to be issued at the same price to existing shareholders, which include P&O, British Land and M&G.

A net dividend for 1994 of 2.4p is forecast and pro forma net assets per share following the placing and offer will be 158p.