Thought leadership

The owner of some of the UK’s biggest shopping centres, Intu, has warned that it is likely to call in administrators.

The firm, which owns Manchester’s Trafford Centre and the Lakeside complex in Essex, said it had not reached an agreement in financial restructuring talks with its lenders.

Intu warned earlier this week that its troubles could see entire sites shut.

The company is the UK’s biggest shopping centre group, with 17 centres in the UK and three in Spain.

Intu has already lined up administrators KPMG as a “contingency” in case financial restructuring talks with lenders fail.

About 132,000 jobs in the company and in its wider supply chain will be in question should the firm fall into administration.

Intu group companies also provide key services to its sites, including facilities management, IT, cleaning, security and maintenance.

The company had been struggling before the coronavirus outbreak to fill outlets in some of its centres, and had debts of about £4.5bn.

Intu’s centres were partially shut during the coronavirus lockdown, with only essential shops remaining open.

In an update to investors on Friday, Intu said it had failed to reach agreement in discussions with lenders on so-called “standstill” terms, under which it would look to defer interest payments on its large and complex debts.

It was also seeking agreements from its wide range of creditors, from big banks to hedge funds, for them not to take action if it breached certain terms on its loans.

Retail expert Kate Hardcastle said one area of concern was Intu’s debt, which it has raised against its properties.

They “just aren’t worth the value they once were”, she told BBC Breakfast.

Even prior to the coronavirus crisis, which forced the closure of all non-essential shops, retailers had been under pressure from a host of factors including changes in shopping habits as people move online.

Big shopping centre landlords rely on big retailers for their revenues – but in recent years retailers have been asking landlords for rent reductions due to the pressures they are under, she said.

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