Ashtenne preliminary results for 2003 and further disposal

Ashtenne Holdings plc announces preliminary results for the year ended 31 December 2003 with a record profit before tax of £31.4 million up 62% (2002: £19.4 million). It also annouces that it has sold its freehold interests in Imperium (formerly called Premier House), a 40,000 sq ft office building in Woking, Surrey, and in its 13 unit trade park, Enterprise Estate, Hengrove Way, Bristol, for a total sum of £13.1 million.

Other financial highlights:

  • NAV up 24% to 335p (2002: 270p)
  • Final dividend of 5.7p per share (2002: 5.4p) making a total dividend for the year of 9.5p per share (2002: 8.9p) an increase of 7%.
  • Gearing 22% (2002: 1%)

Corporate highlights:
  • Properties owned or held in Partnerships increased to £784 million (2002: £580 million)
  • 2004 begins with profitable sales of Lakenheath housing estate and InShops business.
  • Following sales in 2004, Ashtenne is currently ungeared

James Hambro, Chairman, commented: “This is the sixth successive year since flotation in 1997 in which profits, NAV and dividends have increased. In 2003, both the property fund management and direct investments contributed to the outstanding results and we look forward to the coming year with confidence. ”

Further disposal:
Imperium was sold for £8 million to a private investor, while the trade park was sold to the Ashtenne Trade Park Fund, the first specialist investment vehicle dedicated to the trade park investment sector, launched in 2001 by Ashtenne. Both disposals showed a small surplus to book value as at 31 December 2003.

Imperium was acquired as part of a portfolio from Creston plc in 2000. The building was vacant when acquired. Within months of acquisition Ashtenne had fully let the building to Reed Elsevier UK Ltd, the leading publisher and information provider, at a rent of £586,207 pa representing £19.54 psf, on a 15 year lease.

The Creston portfolio also comprised a number of high yielding industrial/business park, office and retail investments, and some development land, as well as an office building at 9-11 Grosvenor Gardens in London SW1, which was subsequently refurbished and sold to Dawnay Day.

Enterprise Estate was acquired vacant by Ashtenne in 2000. The park comprises 13 units, totalling approximately 6,373 sq m (68,000 sq ft). Four units (20,600 sq ft) are designed as showrooms, while the remainder are trade counter units. Most units are currently let at rents ranging from £6 psf to £8 psf. Occupiers include national brand Tops Tiles.

Morgan Jones, joint chief executive of Ashtenne, said: “Imperium has produced healthy returns over the past three years and we feel that, having added value through the letting process, the time was now right to dispose of the investment. Enterprise Estate is now almost fully let, and we are achieving full rental values. We believe that the acquisition of this trade park represents an excellent purchase for the Fund.”

Source: Ashtenne Holdings

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