British Land’s leases hit fastest pace in a decade

British Land, one of Britain’s biggest commercial property landlords, said it was leasing space at the fastest pace in a decade as tenants bet on the future of work and shopping.

The FTSE 100 group said on Wednesday that it had leased just under 4mn sq ft of space in its workplaces and retail and fulfilment centres in the year to the end of March.

The spike in demand pushed the group’s underlying profit up by a quarter compared with the previous year, to £251mn. British Land’s property portfolio increased in value by 6.8 per cent. Including valuation changes, the company swung from a pre-tax loss of £1.1bn last year to a pre-tax profit of £960mn this year.

The company said demand was coming from major corporate occupiers looking for modern offices, which they hoped would be an asset in the war for talent and were increasingly a necessity for businesses which had pledged to reduce carbon emissions.

British Land leased more than 700,000 sq ft of space to a trio of blue-chip firms in the period: estate agency JLL, law firm Allen & Overy and Meta, Facebook’s parent company.

The value of British Land’s roughly £2bn portfolio of retail parks increased by 21 per cent in the year to the end of March.

On Tuesday, British Land’s rival Landsec announced a record year for London office leasing activity. The landlord signed up £63mn of new leases, and said tenants were demanding more modern, sustainable space.

Demand has also increased for retail parks, which often sit on the edge of town and offer both in-person shopping and click-and-collect services and have become hubs for shoppers during the pandemic.

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