340-Year-Old Property Company Clocks Negative Returns But Innovates For The Future
There aren’t many real estate companies that were around for both the 1918 flu pandemic and Covid-19, but Grosvenor, with a history going back to 1677, is one of them. It doesn’t have records of financial performance for 1918, but results released today show that 2020 was its worst year in a long time.
The Duke of Westminster’s property company, which owns huge swathes of Mayfair and Belgravia and has a large international presence as well, revealed today that in 2020 it made a negative total return of 2.9%, its worst performance since the 2008 financial crisis when it returned -4.1%. 2020 was slightly worse than 2009, when the company made a return of -2.8%.
The assets directly owned by Grosvenor dropped from £7.1B at the end of 2019 to £6.7B at the end of 2020. The group’s overall assets under management, including assets managed for third parties, fell from £11.9B to £11.1B. Its overall portfolio is located 46% in Britain and Ireland, 24% in the Americas and 15% in Europe.
Grosvenor fared better than many other property owners that have big holdings of retail and office property in central London, which lockdown left empty for a big chunk of 2020. The company said that it collected 89% of the rent it was due in 2020, ranging from 84% in Britain and Ireland to 100% in Asia Pacific. It collected 77% of the rent it was due from retailers.
But the need to support tenants meant that its net property income dropped from £259M in 2019 to £216M in 2020. The profit it made from leasing out properties dropped from £66M to £25M. It said it had provided rent relief for tenants and in some cases even provided cash contributions to help businesses. Its portfolio was revalued downward by £322M.
Grosvenor said it had £1.7B of liquidity on hand to help it ride out the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But it is also trying to innovate in order to make itself more resilient.
Last year it said it would start to invest in tenants in the retail and leisure sector through a new fund, to provide support for businesses that have the potential to grow, and also to create an alignment of interest between itself as a landlord and the companies to which it rents space.
In January it also invested £2M into proptech firm NearSt, a company that allows consumers to see if a product that they were going to buy online is available in a store very near to them.