Stephen Delport. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Stephen Delport. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Lighthouse Capital, the SA-led group which owns more than 10% of UK mall owner Hammerson Plc, says it is on track to deliver dividends in 2020, unlike many of its peers.

Lighthouse, which was previously known as Greenbay Properties when it was part of the Resilient stable of companies, has spent the past two years shifting from owning investments in transport concessions and tolling operations to owning stakes in European shopping centres.

The company, which now has a stake in Hammerson, Eastern European mall owner Nepi Rockcastle, as well as two malls in Portugal and one in Slovenia, released quarterly results on Friday in which it said it has weathered the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

CEO Stephen Delport said the company is in a healthy position. Many other listed property funds, including large SA groups such as Redefine Properties and Hyprop Investments, have withheld paying dividends in 2020.

“Lighthouse is in a strong financial position and the board’s policy is to consider and declare distributions on a semi-annual basis for June and December,” the company said in a statement.

Lighthouse is rumoured to be eyeing a takeover of struggling Hammerson having bought 10.31% of the company in May and a further 5% subsequently. “Hammerson owns a quality retail property portfolio including flagship retail destinations and premium outlet centres in the UK and Europe,” Lighthouse said.

It added that Hammerson has been considered over-leveraged by the market and therefore not well-positioned to face the challenges arising from the pandemic.

Hammerson, which owns malls in the UK and Western Europe, saw its share price fall the most in four years last week, after it said it planned to raise £551.7m (R12.5bn) in a rights issue and to sell assets.

The company has battled the rise of online shopping and the fall of bricks-and-mortar retail in its markets, as well as government-imposed lockdowns in various countries to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Hammerson’s stock has lost more than three quarters of its value so far in 2020, making it a bargain for Lighthouse.

Lighthouse said it is aware of opportunities created by the pandemic’s fallout.

“The board remains mindful of the structural impact of Covid-19 and that the road to recovery will present both opportunities and challenges. Lighthouse is well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities,” it said. “Hammerson is a long-term and strategic investment and Lighthouse will increase its interest if the opportunity presents itself.”

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