Duke of Westminster’s property firm pays £47m dividend despite loss | Commercial property

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The Duke of Westminster’s property company, Grosvenor Group, swung to a pre-tax loss in 2020, its worst performance since 2008, but still paid a £47m dividend to the duke’s family and its trusts.

The privately-owned group, which includes some of the most famous addresses in Mayfair and Belgravia in London, reported a £311m pre-tax loss last year, compared with a pre-tax profit of almost £157m in 2019, as it recorded a slide in the value of its global property portfolio and gave rent reductions to some of its tenants during the pandemic.

It blamed the impact of Covid-19 for the fall in property valuations, as its property assets tumbled in value by £400m to £6.7bn in 2020.

Retail properties in the UK, Europe and the Americas were responsible for most of the decline in value, as shops and other businesses remained closed for several months of 2020 during successive lockdowns.

Grosvenor’s results were “poor by historical standards”, according to its chief executive, Mark Preston. He said its financial performance had been affected by its decision to waive and reduce rent for some tenants, while it also funded a month-long extension of the government’s “eat out to help out” scheme, offering discounted meals to customers at its hospitality businesses.

“While our numbers may have suffered, our people excelled in how they responded to the pandemic, supporting the communities we work alongside,” Preston said, adding the company had tried to keep vacancies low to enable a quicker recovery.

“In London, we introduced rent waivers for hundreds of retailers, charities and food operators for three months in the first lockdown, while small independent businesses were offered a 50% reduction in their rent across the second and third lockdowns,” he said.

The group added that it had decided at the start of the pandemic not to request taxpayer support and therefore did not furlough any of its employees.

The Grosvenor Group was inherited by 30-year-old Hugh Grosvenor on the death of his father in 2016, The duke is the landlord of almost 1,000 businesses in London’s West End. When he inherited the family fortune, which Forbes magazine estimated at £9bn, he became Britain’s third wealthiest landowner.

Grosvenor said it was optimistic about the future, and predicted a strong recovery over the next two years.

It said footfall at some of its locations, including its Liverpool ONE shopping centre, had bounced back strongly since the reopening of non-essential retail in England and Wales on 12 April.

The group also said it had collected 95% of the rents it had expected to receive in 2020 by the end of January.

Grosvenor announced it was looking into how commercial and residential property would be used after the pandemic “based on an assessment of future patterns of working, living and digital disruption”.

The headline and introduction of this article were amended on 28 April 2021. The dividend was £47m, not £47bn.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Duke of Westminster’s property firm pays £47m dividend despite loss | Commercial property

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