Shopping centre giants Hammerson and Intu to merge

The market retreated in a quiet early session

John Strachan, chairman of intu and proposed senior independent director of the enlarged group, said: "Intu offers high-quality retail and leisure destinations in the United Kingdom and Spain, which when merged with Hammerson's own top-quality assets in the United Kingdom, in France and in Ireland, present a highly attractive proposition for retailers and shoppers in Europe's leading cities". It was an embarrassing development for one of Britain's biggest shopping centre owners and added to accusations that the business had been plagued by poor management and had underinvestment in its stores.

Hammerson owns Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre and Brent Cross in London, while Intu owns Lakeside in Essex, Manchester's Arndale Centre and the Metro Centre in Gateshead.

Analysts were unanimous yesterday in saying that a merger with Hammerson benefited Intu.

"The proposed deal will net the group a stake in nearly 60% of all United Kingdom supermall space, making it a force in the retail landscape, well placed to benefit from retail spend shifting across locations".

Shopping centre owner Hammerson has struck a deal to take over rival Intu in an acquisition worth £3.4bn.

It will hand Hammerson Intu's porfolio of shopping centres in the United Kingdom and Spain, including Lakeside in Essex and the Metrocentre in Gateshead.

Hammerson owns a string of sites across the United Kingdom including the Bullring in Birmingham, Victoria Quarter in Leeds and Cabot Circus in Bristol.

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John Strachan, chairman of Intu, said: "Intu offers high-quality retail and leisure destinations in the United Kingdom and Spain, which, when merged with Hammerson's own top-quality assets in the United Kingdom, in France and in Ireland, present a highly attractive proposition for retailers and shoppers in Europe's leading cities".

Hammerson boss David Atkins will lead the combined group. The enlarged group overall will have six directors nominated by Hammerson and four directors nominated by intu.

He said the deal would strengthen its portfolio and opportunities for growth, including in Spain and Ireland, two of Europe's fastest growing economies.

Shares in Hammerson closed down more than 6% at 501.5p, while Intu shares were up almost 14% at 226p.

Hammerson expects a one-off cash cost of £40mln in aggregate for the integration of Intu but anticipates the enlarged group will deliver pre-tax cost synergies of about £25mln per year by the end of the second year following completion.

The acquisition will give Hammerson shareholders a 55 per cent stake in the firm and Intu shareholders the remainder. Whittaker will retain the same role in the combined company.

Mr Atkins will remain in place, along with Hammerson's chairman David Tyler and chief financial officer Tim Drakesmith.

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