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£220m of Retail Park acquisitions provide Pradera UK with fund launch platform.

£220m of Retail Park acquisitions provide Pradera UK with fund launch platform.

Pradera UK, the specialist retail fund manager, has had a busy 2010 having dealt in circa £220 million of retail parks in ten locations, generating circa £17 million of income per annum.

With new retail warehouse schemes being bought at the rate of nearly one-a-month, through both the Pradera Open-Ended Retail Fund and the fund manager’s joint venture with AEW, over 1 million sq ft (92,902 sq m) of space has been acquired across England, Scotland and Wales; of which 90% of the deals have been ‘off-market’.

Further to these acquisitions, Pradera UK, which is part of the Cadena Group, is working towards the imminent launch of a new £500 million retail fund focused on opportunities within the UK market, for which positive responses have already been received from seed investors.

Assets now under Pradera UK’s management include retail parks in: Bridgend; Coventry; West Glasgow; Dunstable; Perth and Yeovil. There are over 70 leases within the portfolio, featuring a who’s who of out-of-town retailers, many of whom are sector leaders such as Currys/PC World; Homebase; Matalan; Argos; B&Q; Mothercare; Halfords; TK Maxx; Pets at Home; Dunelm; Laura Ashley and Carpetright.

Neil Varnham, Fund Director of Pradera UK, comments: “These acquisitions are the foundations for Pradera UK to continue delivering good, lucrative returns and demonstrate the value that exists and we are able to unlock in the out-of-town retail sector.

“Pradera UK’s ability to buy assets on an off-market basis, allied to the strength of its investment team, makes it uniquely well-placed to take advantage of the opportunities available and these acquisitions demonstrate this.”

Richard Gore, Property Director of Pradera UK, adds: “We are delighted we have been able to amass a portfolio of retail parks quietly during the last 12 months. We have not been buying the sector per se, but instead seeking assets which offer solid core income with the ability to generate increased returns for ourselves and our tenants. This we will continue to do whilst we see value in the sector. This is backed up by the excellent relationships we have with retailers across and outside our current portfolio.”

Pradera UK has identified several trends in the retail warehouse sector making it an interesting market to be active in from an investment perspective. These trends include:

  • The sector lost its weaker retailers such as MFI and Land of Leather early on in the economic downturn. Since then the established operators are to be commended on achieving robust results in difficult trading conditions
  • When compared to town centre properties, retail warehouses continue to be attractive to retailers for several reasons including affordability (rents and service charges) design flexibility and attractive amenities (free on site car parking).
  • Genuine demand exists from retailers to acquire new space, upgrade existing holdings and expand into new sectors and markets. Out-of-town retail space remains a very efficient and cost-effective way of doing this.
  • High street names such as BHS, John Lewis and Debenhams are all expanding into out-of-town retail centres, as the opportunities for floorspace and subsequent volume simply cannot be found in town centres in the foreseeable future coupled with the inherent attractions of retail warehousing.
  • Retailer confidence in the sector remains strong, evidenced by the fact that established retailers are actively pursuing new fascias for example Next Home, TK Maxx Homesense and Boots’ new drive thru pharmacies show the way that successful, existing names are looking for new markets to expand into.
  • New entrants have arrived such as JLP Home, Best Buy, Wren Kitchens and Clas Ohlson.
  • Private equity has been attracted to the retailers in the sector this year with significant acquisitions including DFS, Pets at Home and Hobbycraft. These strategic purchases confirms investor confidence in well run businesses providing the necessary capital for expansion.
  • Global equity is looking to move into the UK retail warehouse property market. Investors’ view the UK out-of-town retail property sector as a liquid, transparent and stable market that offers good returns. There also remains a yield gap between properties fully let on long term leases and those requiring the skills of an active asset manager like Pradera UK, a yield gap of which Pradera UK is able to take full advantage.

Neil Varnham continues: “The prevalent conditions within the out-of-town retail property sector, driven by the key trends we’ve detailed, make this an ideal time for investors from both the UK and overseas to invest in the asset class.

“The need for established retailers to expand, together with new arrivals from overseas, will help drive rents over the coming year as the advantages of retail warehousing are capitalised on. From an investment perspective, the transparency and liquidity of the UK market are key considerations and the sector has shown itself to adequately fulfill both of these criteria.

“The imminent launch of our new £500 million retail property fund has been timed to not only coincide but take advantage of these conditions and we anticipate considerable interest from investors.”

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Ragusa: Ibleo Shopping Centre