Eurocommercial Properties N.V. (the Company) announced its December 2002 half-year results today, showing net income up 11% on the previous corresponding period.
Net income for the six months to 31 December 2002 was Ã¢âÂ¬ 20.0 million compared to Ã¢âÂ¬ 18.0 million for the same period in 2001. The net earnings per depositary receipt were maintained at Ã¢âÂ¬ 0.70 compared to the same period in 2001. Under current circumstances the Board expects that the annual dividend per depositary receipt for 2003 will be not less than the dividend for 2002. Any increase will depend on the timing of property acquisitions during the period.
The net asset value per depositary receipt at 31 December 2002 was Ã¢âÂ¬ 21.35 which compares with Ã¢âÂ¬ 20.32 at 31 December 2001. The net asset value at the full year end at 30 June 2002 was Ã¢âÂ¬ 22.09 but this figure included the annual dividend of Ã¢âÂ¬ 1.40 per depositary receipt. All properties will be valued at the year end, in accordance with the Company´s normal procedures.
The Company increased its share capital by 2.4% in November 2002 by issuing stock dividend bonus depositary receipts for a total amount of Ã¢âÂ¬ 14.5 million. The 6.67% stock dividend option (1 for every 15 held) was taken up by 36% of holders of depositary receipts. Shareholders´ equity at 31 December 2002 was Ã¢âÂ¬ 625 million.
The Company´s portfolio is currently 85% invested in shopping centres and other prime retail property in France, Italy and Sweden. These markets have proved to be extremely resilient to the 2002 economic slowdown with, so far, no evidence of any lessening of demand by either investors or tenants.
The Company´s occupancy rate remains above 99% and despite a generally poor December 2002, annual sales turnover in the Company´s centres was overall just over 2.5% higher than for 2001. Expectations for rent reversions in 2003 are unchanged.
The Company´s only pure office building, the 'Belastingdienst' in Sloterdijk, Amsterdam is entirely leased to the Netherlands Government until 2009. The Company is thus unaffected by the very weak office letting market.
The warehouse portfolio is also fully leased and this sector of the market both in France and The Netherlands remains stable, benefitting from high yields.
Market outlook & investment programme
The outlook for European property markets is more uncertain than it has been for some time. Apart from the obvious difficulties in the office sector the economic slowdown makes it difficult to justify paying very high prices for the few large 'trophy' retail investments that may come to the market, notwithstanding continued strong investment demand and low interest rates. The Company is therefore concentrating on smaller properties that offer basic value with good yields and moderate rents.
The Company intends to commit up to Ã¢âÂ¬ 150 million to largely retail property during this financial year, maintaining its target in this sector at around 90% of the total.
Properties acquired to date are the shopping centres Les Trois Dauphins, Grenoble, France and HÃÂ¤lla Shopping in VÃÂ¤sterÃÂ¥s, Sweden, together with a retail park at Mantova, Italy amounting to a total investment of Ã¢âÂ¬ 51 million. The net yields of these properties are respectively 7%, 8% and 7.2% and details are attached.
Further properties to a value of approximately Ã¢âÂ¬ 75 million are the subject of preliminary agreements which are currently thought likely to become legally binding contracts by the year end. Announcements will be made as these occur.
Negotiations are also at an advanced stage for the acquisition of additional properties but these are not likely to be realised before 30 June 2003.
The fact that the Company´s investment programme is, deliberately, proceeding cautiously means that the new investments will not have been owned for a sufficient proportion of the year to contribute significantly to the 2003 year end results. The full impact will however be felt in the financial year comm