Hermes buys

Hermes has agreed to buy a portfolio of four outlet malls from Freeport for £245.5m, in a deal that will make Hermes the biggest owner in the UK outlet market.

The four outlets are in Braintree, Castleford, Fleetwood and Talke, and were held in the Freeport Limited Partnership, a fund into which the four properties were transferred in March 2002.

Hermes will take a 99% stake in the three larger schemes in Braintree, Castleford and Fleetwood, and will acquire 100% of the equity in the Talke (Jersey) Limited Partnership.

Through its specialist outlet arm, Realm, Hermes already owns schemes in Doncaster, Bedford, Street and Kendal. The deal will take Hermes´ ownership of factory outlet centres from around 592,000 sq ft to 1.2m sq ft.

Freeport Executive Chairman, Sean Collidge, commented: “We are delighted to conclude this transaction with Hermes. Freeport’s strategy is to dispose of fully mature assets to recycle capital whilst continuing to develop new Freeport centres, in order to maximise shareholder value.”

News of the deal coincides with Freeport’s results, released today. The company reported a 13% rise in turnover to £10.6m for the 27 weeks to 3 January 2004. Pre-tax profits rose 11% to £6.7m. Fully diluted earnings per share increased 2% to 9.13p per share, and fully diluted net assets per share rose 1% to 525p. As in previous years, the board does not intend to pay a dividend.

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