Paul Leaf-Wright. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Paul Leaf-Wright. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Atlantic Leaf Properties, a UK-based real estate investment trust (Reit), will spend £3.3m (R74.4m) to refurbish the vacant portion of the Peterborough office into smaller lot sizes, it said on Tuesday.

Atlantic Leaf’s chief investment officer, Shaun Fourie, said they have received “good interest in the property, but the take-up may be slower than we had originally hoped for”.

Occupation of the vacant space could commence from September, Fourie said.

It will take longer than expected to fully let this property in the current environment, he said.

The world has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, which has halted economic activities, leading to some companies being unable to pay rents.

Atlantic Leaf said while rent collection for the first quarter of its 2021 financial year was positive, it will continue to work with all its tenants during this very challenging time to ensure that “we maximise our rental collections while also providing support to those tenants where it is needed”.

The group reported a dividend of 4.50 pence per share for the second half of its 2020 financial year, bringing the total dividend for the year to February to 9 pence per share.

CEO Paul Leaf-Wright said Atlantic Leaf has performed in line with expectations for the year and achieved an adjusted earnings per share of 10.54 pence per share, up 13% over the prior year’s 9.31 pence per share.

“We continued to benefit from a strong tenant base, with only the Peterborough asset being vacant at year end,” he said.

Cash rental revenue increased 8% to £26.2m from £24.1m the previous year. The group also benefited from the disposal of a DHL warehouse asset in February that realised a profit on sale of £4.3m.

“The sale not only resulted in a pleasing internal rate of return of 16% over the time we held the asset but has significantly strengthened our cash position at an opportune time,” Leaf-Wright said.

Fourie said rental collection was positive for the company, despite the UK entering an economic lockdown in March.

“We hope that the businesses which have been required to curtail operations during the lockdown will be able to recommence activities soon,” he said.

In the 2021 financial year, the company will benefit from rent uplifts on 28 properties leased to UK food wholesaler Booker.

“While we will no doubt continue to be impacted by Covid-19, our current cash position is strong, and we believe that we are well positioned to deal with this period of uncertainty,” Leaf-Wright said.