Landsec buys extra 25% of Bluewater mall
Landsec has acquired an extra 25% stake in the giant Bluewater mall in Kent, buying out Lendlease Retail Partnership for £172 million.
But while this is part of the firm’s rumoured plan to take a controlling stake in Bluewater, at the same time, the property giant will sell a quarter of its new share to co-owner M&G for its pro rata share of the purchase price. The deal will complete in April 2022, at which point Landsec's ownership of Bluewater will still be only 48.75% rather than 55% had it retained the full stake.
Landsec had previously bought a 30% stake in Bluewater from Lendlease in 2014 for £656 million so the new stake purchase is at a much lower price. Had values stayed elevated, the remaining 25% would have cost it £500 million+ and there had been talk that Lendlease was earlier seeking at least £400 million for its remaining holding.
Bluewater was Europe’s largest mall when it opened in 1999, although bigger openings since then have pushed it down the scale. Located in North West Kent, around 23 miles east of Central London, it’s still one of the UK's largest out-of-town shopping centres and the biggest of its kind in South East England.
And while some key long-standing tenants, such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Warehouse and Oasis, have closed in the wake of the pandemic, it’s still often a first choice for prestigious openings.
For instance, recently, Monsoon chose to open its second new concept store with a Bluewater debut, Amazon opened its first UK non-food store there, Zara converted its store to its first new-concept UK site, and Vanilla, Crep Collection and Carvela opened. Bluewater’s M&S is also always on the list for that company to unveil new concepts and test new ideas.
It has an annual turnover of £1 billion plus a catchment population of 3.9 million people, and is also is home to strong brands including Apple, John Lewis, Next, H&M, Uniqlo, and Primark.
Bruce Findlay, MD, Retail at Landsec said: “We're making this acquisition at a time when retail values and rents are starting to stabilise. Together with our co-owners, we have a clear vision for Bluewater which builds on what is already a thriving retail destination. This investment underlines our strategic commitment to major retail destinations that offer something that can't easily be replicated online.”
The acquisition follows the recent announcement that Landsec has created a new brand account management team alongside a new operating model for its retail business, as the group accelerates its 'reimagine retail' strategic pillar.
Landsec bought the management rights for Bluewater and the land around it in 2014 when it acquired its initial stake, and this land is also believed to be an important factor in its interest in the location.
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