Rich harvest for property group

The first fruits of a major reorganisation of its property portfolio have shown through in soaring profits for Hammerson, the property group.

Unveiling a 45 per cent rise in profits to pounds 35.4m for the six months to June, chief executive Ronald Spinney said the group was ready to make further acquisitions and disposals, in line with its new strategy of focusing on a smaller number of territories and properties.

Mr Spinney said Hammerson had decided to slim down following a complete review of its portfolio two years ago. Two properties that do not fit in with the group's plans, at Buffalo in New York state and at Saarbrucken in Germany, should have gone by the year end, he said, while the search for acquisitions is continuing in all three of the group's areas of operation: the UK, continental Europe and North America.

Despite continuing uncertainty, Hammerson will pay particular attention to the UK retail and central London office markets, and to similar markets in Paris. The group's UK retail properties have proved resilient and there has been continuing demand for prime accommodation, notably in the West End and City of London.

The half-year profits were struck on net rental and other income raised 8.6 per cent to pounds 63.6m. Earnings per share rose 12 per cent to 7.4p, out of which Hammerson is paying an unchanged interim dividend of 3.5p. There is no revaluation of the portfolio at the half-year stage, but Mr Spinney said it was unlikely that there would be much change on the last year- end figure of 375p a share.

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