The Board of British Land announces the results of the poll taken at the Annual General Meeting of the Company held last Friday. Votes (including votes withheld) were cast for a total of 348,584,967 ordinary shares of the Company, representing 67% of the issued share capital. The resolutions were approved by majorities in excess of 97% in every case.
Earlier that day the following statement by Mr. John Ritblat was released:
"When we recently published our 2005 results we revealed another record and lively year extending our excellent track record of growth with security. British Land's compound total shareholder return for the last five years has been 18% per annum, which means that £1,000 invested in 2000 had risen to £2,288 at March end 2005. On a much longer view, we have increased our dividend every year without break for over a quarter of a century.
2004/5 was a particularly pleasing year for British Land in showcasing both the enduring strength of our business model as well as our determination to update and change elements to assure continued success in the future.
Pre-exceptionals, earnings per share, increased 7.2% and net assets per share 19.1%. This financial success reflected contributions from right across our business. Rents increased 9.3% reflecting a wide range of asset management successes. We let 3 million sq ft, delivered 1.1 million sq ft of new developments and were very active in repositioning our portfolio with both purchases and sales. The financial side of our business remains a distinctive strength, with a notable refinancing of Broadgate among our achievements.
Stephen Hester joined as Chief Executive in November and I am pleased that he has grasped leadership of our Executive team so swiftly and effectively. Our results announcement in May presented clearly our focused strategy for the future and the key planks upon which it will be built.
The £811 million takeover of Pillar Property PLC, announced on 23 May, has this week been approved by its shareholders. We have been preparing for its assimilation, expected on 28 July 2005, when we will have £17.1 billion of assets owned and under management. I am confident that the influx of new properties and new people in the business of fund management will bring sustained benefits to British Land shareholders.
Elsewhere, British Land is putting together a new 5 year revolving unsecured bank facility to provide funding for its initiatives. Over£750 million is already committed. We have also taken profitable advantage of the strong market to sell the 300,000 sq ft pre-let warehouse we had developed at DIRFT in Daventry and our half-interest in the ILAC Centre in Dublin, while many other initiatives are progressing well across the business.
The outlook for the sectors where we are invested remains promising. A tougher retailing climate will underline the strengths of our prime portfolio, especially with trends still favouring our distinctive position in out-of-town locations. In the office sector, potential City of London occupiers remain active with vacancy rates declining. As we predicted, the market is delivering more yield shift this year, in recognition of the solid fundamentals relative to inflation, bonds and equity yields. As always the best properties command most interest.
Meanwhile we continue to work hard on our entire portfolio, which enjoys high occupancy, is of prime quality, with excellent covenants on long leases. We concentrate on recycling capital towards the best opportunities for growth, and on creating plenty of further opportunities to improve returns on the assets we own. Of course, all of these efforts rely heavily on the skills and dedication of our management team. Here too we are changing and renewing whilst asking for ever higher performance. On your behalf, I would like to thank our colleagues, old and new, for these continuing endeavours.
The Company is in fine fettle and I remain confident both that the property industry is the place to be and that British Land's prospects are excellent."