Ding ding! Seconds out, Round Three…
Hammerson, one of the two heavyweight contenders in the battle for central Croydon, put its money where its mouth is over the weekend, staking £65 million to buy-out one of the leaseholders of the Whitgift Centre as a sign of the company’s determination to beat the challenge from Westfield.
Both shopping mall developers have recently been trailing their £1 billion “visions” for the future of the Whitgift Centre. Both “visions” involve a lot of shops and flats, and offer “up to” 5,000 jobs (Inside Croydon‘s cynicism insert: of course, if either developer is successful and delivers, say, even 6 jobs, they will be able to say that thet have fulfilled their somewhat empty “promise” of up to 5,000 jobs).
The contest was sparked last year when the Whitgift Foundation, the owners of the freehold of the Whitgift Centre, announced unilaterally that it wanted Westfield to redevelop the tired and decaying 1960s centre which has not been given a significant overhaul for 14 years.
In Hammerson’s corner was Royal London Asset Management and IBRC Assurance Company (formerly the Anglo Irish Bank) which between them owned 75 per cent the Whitgift Centre. Hammerson owns the 100 per cent of Centrale.
It was Royal London’s stake in the centre, a 155-year headlease, which Hammerson announced it had bought today. “Another step towards the scheme and sign of commitment to Croydon,” said one insider. “I think it also addresses the point about Hammerson’s firepower to invest.”
Hammerson, the country’s largest operator of shopping malls, including north London’s Brent Cross centre, last year had revenue of £344 million. Westfield, the Australian company which has recently opened major shopping centres at Stratford and Shepherd’s Bush, had £1.48 billion in global revenues in 2010.
Announcing the purchase this morning, Hammerson announced: “In conjunction with Hammerson’s existing ownership of the adjacent Centrale centre, the acquisition will strengthen Hammerson’s ownership interest in Croydon. In July, Hammerson revealed plans for the Whitgift Quarter, a 150,000m² development which will restore the town to its rightful place as one of the UK’s leading shopping destinations.”
David Atkins, Chief Executive of Hammerson, said: “We are absolutely committed to the delivery of our plans for Croydon, and we are confident that the development of the Whitgift Quarter will play a key role in the regeneration of the town. This transaction with Royal London is a key milestone in the development of our plans and our strategy to deliver a new retail core for Croydon. We are seeking to work collaboratively with all the owners and other stakeholders to bring forward this exciting scheme.”
Westfield lodged a planning application for its scheme last week and the council is expected to give a decision by January.
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- Westfield swoops in early with planning application for Croydon (insidecroydon.com)
- Schools job raises questions about Barwell’s Foundation links (insidecroydon.com)
- Hammerson backs retail expansion (guardian.co.uk)