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Great Portland Ests. (GPOR)

  Print      Mail a friend       Annual reports

Wednesday 08 March, 2000

Great Portland Ests.

Strategic Initiative, etc Part 2

Great Portland Estates PLC
8 March 2000


PART TWO
                                       
               GREAT PORTLAND ESTATES P.L.C. ('GREAT PORTLAND')
               ------------------------------------------------
                                       
            GREAT PORTLAND ANNOUNCES A MAJOR STRATEGIC INITIATIVE:
            ------------------------------------------------------
REFOCUSING OF THE PORTFOLIO; RETURN OF CASH TO SHAREHOLDERS; AND BOARD CHANGES
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       
                                       
PART II OF II
-------------

Introduction
------------

As a result of a strategic appraisal of the business, the Board announces a
major initiative to refocus the Group's property portfolio and return cash to
shareholders.

In the 1999 Annual Report, Great Portland reported an intention to rationalise
the portfolio in order to concentrate upon markets which it believed offered
greater potential for growth.  The Board has taken the decision to widen and
accelerate the disposal programme in order to capitalise on opportunities
presented in the real estate and equity markets and to maximise value for
shareholders.  This initiative will speed up the process of refocusing the
Group.

Associated with the disposal programme and subject to the requisite approvals,
the Board announces that it intends to return not less than 80 pence per share
(GBP 285 million) in cash to shareholders.  This represents approximately 40
per cent. of Great Portland's current market value as at 7th March, 2000.
This is intended to further focus the operation of the Group and to improve
the financial efficiency.

To date, completed non-core property disposals have amounted to some GBP 100
million and Great Portland is now in the process of selling a further GBP 300
million of non-core properties.  Since 31st March, 1999, approximately GBP 100
million has been invested in central London and shopping centres.

Following completion of the non-core disposals it is the intention that the
Group's portfolio will comprise approximately GBP 1.4 billion of properties
(based on property values as at 31st March, 1999, including subsequent
acquisitions at cost less any disposals) of which 63 per cent. and 25 per
cent. will be located in central London and in shopping centres respectively.

The remaining properties, amounting to approximately GBP 175 million or 12 per
cent. of the portfolio, will comprise certain regional offices, primarily in
the South-East, which are currently being retained for their rental growth
potential.

In addition, Great Portland intends to seek approval to renew the authority to
make market purchases from shareholders for up to a further 15 per cent. of
the issued ordinary share capital following on from the GBP 38 million
recently spent on the purchase of approximately 5.5 per cent. of the issued
ordinary share capital.

Great Portland also announces that on 1st April, 2000, Richard Peskin will
become non-executive Chairman and Patrick Hall and Peter Shaw will become
joint Managing Directors; David Godwin will become non-executive Deputy
Chairman in July 2000 upon the retirement of Roger Payton.

Background to and reasons for the restructuring
-----------------------------------------------

The Group has been focusing the portfolio to concentrate its assets in the key
markets of central London and shopping centres where it anticipates more
favourable rental and capital growth and long-term outperformance.  Through
this increased focus, management believes that greater shareholder value can
be delivered.

The following tables detail the composition of the Group's portfolio before
and after the non-core disposals.

Before non-core disposals(1)

Focus               Value                         As percentage of total
Central London      GBP 866.2 million             51 per cent.
Shopping centres    GBP 253.2 million             15 per cent.
Regional offices    GBP 253.5 million             15 per cent.
Retail warehousing  GBP 105.6 million             6 per cent.
Other               GBP 235.1 million             13 per cent.
Total               GBP 1,713.6 million           100 per cent.

Pro forma following non-core disposals(2)

Focus               Value                         As percentage of total
Central London      GBP 888.9 million             63 per cent.
Shopping centres    GBP 359.9 million             25 per cent.
Regional offices    GBP 174.7 million             12 per cent.
Total               GBP 1,423.5 million           100 per cent.

Notes:
(1) Based on property values as at 31st March, 1999
(2) Based on property values as at 31st March, 1999, including subsequent
acquisitions at cost less any disposals

Objectives and strategy
-----------------------

Following the completion of the disposals, the Board believes that Great
Portland's assets in the key markets of central London and shopping centres,
coupled with the growth opportunities that exist, provide exciting prospects
for Great Portland.

Board changes
-------------

Great Portland announces that Richard Peskin has decided to relinquish
executive duties and will become non-executive Chairman from 1st April, 2000.
He has been an executive director of the Company since 1968 and Managing
Director since 1986.

Patrick Hall and Peter Shaw will become joint Managing Directors on 1st April,
2000.  Mr Hall joined the Board in 1991 and became Deputy Managing Director in
1994; Mr Shaw has been a member of the Board since 1994.

In addition, David Godwin will become non-executive Deputy Chairman on the
retirement of Roger Payton at the Annual General Meeting in July 2000.  Mr
Godwin has been a non-executive Director of Great Portland since 1998.

The proposals
-------------

The Board is proposing, subject to the requisite approvals, to return not less
than 80 pence per share (GBP 285 million) in cash to ordinary shareholders
from the proceeds of the disposal programme.  This represents 40 per cent. of
Great Portland's current market value as at 7th March, 2000.  The Board is
currently examining the most appropriate method for achieving this objective.

In addition, Great Portland intends to seek approval to renew the authority to
make market purchases from shareholders for up to a further 15 per cent. of
the issued ordinary share capital following on from the GBP 38 million
recently spent on the purchase of approximately 5.5 per cent. of the issued
ordinary share capital.  This authority will be exercised as and when
appropriate to ensure that the Group maintains an efficient capital structure.

It is intended that detailed proposals will be put to shareholders on or
before 6th June, 2000, when Great Portland will announce its preliminary
results for the year ending 31st March, 2000

Current trading
---------------

Overall, Great Portland is currently experiencing firm investment and letting
markets.  Central London and, in particular, the West End is demonstrating
stronger demand than the other markets in which the Group operates.  The Board
believes that adjusted earnings in the second half will be broadly similar to
those achieved in the first half.

Dividend policy
---------------

Following completion of the non-core disposals and return of cash to
shareholders the Board intends to retain its traditional dividend policy which
is based on sustainable earnings, notwithstanding that these proposals will
result in increased gearing.


Enquiries
---------

Great Portland Estates P.L.C.                     Tel: 020 7580 3040
----------------------------
Patrick Hall
Peter Shaw
John Whiteley


Lazard                                            Tel: 020 7588 2721
------
Nicholas Jones
William Rucker


Cazenove & Co                                     Tel: 020 7588 2828
-------------
Richard Cotton
Duncan Hunter


Citigate Dewe Rogerson                            Tel: 020 7638 9571
----------------------
Sue Pemberton