British shopping centre owner Intu Properties has collapsed into administration after failing to agree a reprieve from lenders. The company, which owns nine of the UK’s top 20 shopping centres, has applied to appoint three administrators from KMPG, according to a statement released on 26 June. The shopping centres will continue to trade for the time being, it said.
Intu had warned earlier that it would likely appoint administrators after failing to appease its creditors and that it was considering how to protect stakeholders. Its shares, which are now suspended, tumbled almost 70% on the news.
Intu was already suffering from plunging UK store rents and collapsing values before the coronavirus outbreak forced most of its tenants to close. The lockdown contributed as retailers withheld rent and the pandemic blocked previous rescue options including a capital raise, as the firm sought to reduce its £4.5bn debt. The administration threatens the jobs of 2,500 Intu staff and of the thousands more who work in the stores inside its malls.
The move paves the way for the potential sale of some of the UK’s most-visited shopping centres, including the Trafford Centre near Manchester and Lakeside in Essex. The company’s lenders have reportedly initiated talks with a range of asset managers to take over the running of its properties in the event it failed.
“There remains a danger of a fire sale by administrators that would cause negative ripples across the sector,” Colm Lauder, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers, wrote in a note to clients.