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Land Securities acquires 30% stake in Bluewater for £656m and plans to change shopping to fewer bigger retail units to attract larger chains

By Chris Price

The FTSE 100 company which owns land set to be turned into an Ebbsfleet garden city has acquired a 30% stake in Bluewater for £656m.

As well as holding a new stake, Land Securities has acquired full asset management rights for the 1.8m sqft shopping centre and 110 acres of surrounding land for £40m.

The company aims to build bigger shopping units at the centre in a bid to drive down vacancy rates.

An aerial view of Bluewater

After expiry of rent free periods, the overall net initial yield is 4.1%.

Land Securities already owns the Eastern Quarry near Swanscombe and surrounding land, which has been earmarked for a new garden city with 15,000 homes by Chancellor George Osborne.

Land Securities retail managing director Scott Parsons said: “The acquisition of this interest in Bluewater is part of the continued strategic shift of our retail portfolio towards dominance, experience and convenience.

Bluewater has 1.8m sqft of shopping space

“This acquisition, which increases our exposure to the South East, follows the recent disposals of Overgate, Dundee and The Bridges, Sunderland, and demonstrates the pace at which we are delivering on our strategy.

“We see opportunity to improve returns at Bluewater by reducing the void rate of 5.3% in line with our retail portfolio average of 2.6%, combining units to provide fewer, bigger units which are more attractive to retailers, and improving the leisure and catering offer.

“We are confident that our fresh approach to asset management together with the South East’s strong economy will deliver rental growth as market confidence returns.”

Bluewater attracts 27 million visitors a year and is home to more than 330 retailers, cafes, bars and restaurants, including Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser and John Lewis.

Bluewater shopping centre

Land Securities is involved in several high-profile developments in Kent, including the proposed Lodge Hill housing development in Chattenden, near Strood, and the recently rejected bid to build an expanded shopping centre at Newnham Court in Maidstone.

The acquisition of the 30% stake from Land Lease means 25% of the mall is owned by Lend Lease, 35% by M&G Real Estate and GIC and 10% by Aberdeen Asset Management.

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