The Galeria Tecza shopping centre in Kalisz, Poland, is one of EPP’s retail properties in the Central European country. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Galeria Tecza shopping centre in Kalisz, Poland, is one of EPP’s retail properties in the Central European country. Picture: SUPPLIED

EPP, Poland's largest retail landlord, says the group is over the worst of the pandemic and should be able to pay a dividend again in 2021.

The JSE and Luxembourg-listed group is optimistic about the country’s recovery from Covid-19 as mall activity continues to rise.

Poland went into lockdown in mid-March. As much as 93% of its malls’ area is operating since the reopening of Polish shopping centres in May. EPP, which is 45% owned by Redefine, owns 25 retail assets which take up 900,000m2 of lettable area and are worth more than €2.2bn (R43bn).

Poland, the largest economy in Eastern Europe, is set to contract only about 0.1% over the next 18 months, while other European countries take far bigger knocks, EPP's management said in a pre-close update on Monday.

The group expects full-year earnings per share of four to five euro cent to end-December, a 46.6%-33.3% fall from the prior comparative period.

EPP said the Polish government’s quick, efficient response to the pandemic has allowed Poland to minimise its effect.

This has resulted in Poland becoming one of the first countries in Europe to unfreeze its economy and even accelerate certain stages of the reopening, with shopping centres allowed to operate earlier than initially expected, the group said.

The Polish GDP volume will likely almost reach its 2019 level as early as 2021 with good growth potential for 2022, EPP said.

“It is expected that Poland will be ranked one of the top three best recovering economies in the EU,” it said.

In June, the number of people visiting EPP's shopping centres, was at about 70% of pre-pandemic levels, a big increase from the week of May 4 2020, the group said.

CEO Tomasz Trzósło said EPP was working on successfully concluding remaining tenant agreements.

“We want to lay out the foundations to better position the company in a post Covid-19 environment,” he said.

“The company’s liquidity, bolstered by the retention of the second half 2019 dividend, is strong and stable, notwithstanding the challenging trading environment,” he said.

To enhance the liquidity of the business, EPP has drawn down a further €95m on its corporate credit facility. The company had available cash reserves of €170m as at the end of May.

The Board will assess the payment of a dividend when finalising its half-year results in September 2020.

EPP, which has a market capitalisation of about R7.7bn, saw its share price rise 5.18% to R8.94 following the release of the update.

gernetzkyk@businesslive.co.za

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