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Incisive Questioning of Hammerson's Chairman by, er, Someone Else at Hammerson

Link to Hammerson web site

Q&A with the Chairman

Hammerson's General Counsel and Company Secretary Sarah Booth talks to John Nelson about the latest developments in corporate governance and the Company's approach to emerging themes.

SARAH BOOTH: "In 2010 the Financial Reporting Council issued the new UK Corporate Governance Code and recommended that in the Annual Report the Chairman makes a personal statement to shareholders regarding governance.

"I am interested in your views on corporate governance generally."

JOHN NELSON: "I am a strong supporter of the principles of good governance originally established by the Cadbury Committee in 1992, which have proved so valuable over the years and which now form the basis of the new UK Code."

Link to Annual Report 2011
(Feb. 2012)
SB: "Have we still got more work to do on improving our standards of governance?" [Well, he's not going to say 'no', is he? And this isn't exactly a verbatum single-take interview, is it? It does say 'talks' above, does it not?]

JN: "There is always room for improvement and no Board should ever be complacent. We are charged with delivering the long-term success of our Company and we take this duty very seriously. ..."

From Annual Report:
"Hammerson has been creating and managing some of the most exciting retail destinations and office buildings in Europe for over 60 years. Hammerson’s vision is to be the best owner-manager and developer of retail property within Europe. We specialise in prime regional shopping centres and convenient retail parks. 

"Our aim is to outperform through two areas of focus:
  • income growth, and 
  • high quality property
both of which are underpinned by our capital strength."

 Chief executive’s report
"Hammerson's business model is to:
  • Own prime properties in the best locations
  • Ensure buildings are modern, well maintained and relevant for customers
  • Maintain significant scale in key markets
  • Retail property specialism to foster innovation
  • Ensure venues are positively differentiated from competition
  • Drive income growth through optimum tenant mix and high occupancy.
"Our revised strategy will enhance the focus on income growth and efficiency, and therefore we anticipate being able to grow dividends at a higher rate than in recent years.

"We have leading positions in both the UK and French retail property markets, where we will increase our presence in successful locations through development or acquisition. We will concentrate on regionally dominant shopping centres, convenient retail parks and premium designer outlet villages. Our intention is to remain an active recycler of capital in order to secure opportunities to create higher returns for shareholders.

"Within our London office portfolio, we will continue to implement our business plans to increase the value of our office assets and developments. Our intention is to sell our standing office investments over the medium-term to maximise value. We have a small number of London office development projects and strategic mixed-use sites that offer superior returns, where we will continue to allocate capital to increase the overall value of the projects. Where appropriate, we will introduce funding or JV capital to de-risk projects and reduce our overall commitment."
[Our comment on Brent Cross Cricklewood:
That seems to mean one foot is out the door already.
Any more involvement from tax havens, by the way?]

 Corporate responsibility

"European governments are increasingly focused on community engagement. At a national and local level we work with key stakeholders to align our community investment strategy with local priorities and needs. This was evident in our response to the civil unrest that occurred in the UK during the summer of 2011. We implemented a coordinated response to manage both the immediate and long-term impacts in the areas where we operate. We provided finance, skills and expertise to support local businesses and communities. 

Now that the Localism Act has been passed in the UK, we have implemented a number of measures around community consultation to further support our partners." [Although London Borough of Barnet doesn't do 'community'.]

 Business review

"There continues to be strong demand from retailers for well located, high quality accommodation in the UK and France. Planning restrictions, together with the expertise and funding required to build and operate prime shopping centres of this type, constrain their supply but our pipeline provides some exciting retail development opportunities.

"Brent Cross/Cricklewood and The Goodsyard are two further significant, long-term urban regeneration projects with a retail focus which we will continue to progress."
[Using a tax haven?]

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