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April 27 (Reuters) – Shopping center owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW.AS) reported first-quarter sales approaching pre-pandemic levels on Wednesday, citing a strong recovery from COVID-19 .
The company’s IFRS revenue was €734.5 million ($775.19 million), up 36.2% year-on-year, but still below the performance of 2019.
After the pandemic-induced closure of retail stores hit shopping center owners, leaving URW with more than 22 billion euros in debt at the end of 2021, the group expects its net rental income retail sales in Europe return to pre-COVID levels on a run rate basis in 2023, with full effect in 2024.
“Based on the first quarter performance, including improved collection levels and sustained rental activity, we confirm our adjusted recurring earnings per share target of 8.20 to 8.40 euros per share for 2022”, Chief Executive Jean-Marie Tritant said in a quarterly statement.
Attendance remains at 82% of pre-pandemic levels, impacted by the Omicron variant, and continues to recover, albeit slowly, Jefferies said.
“We expect maintaining occupancy to be more difficult given the continued reliance on short-term leases,” the broker added.
URW is monitoring the potential impact of the broader economic and geopolitical situation on the group’s markets very closely, Tritant added.
The company, which counts the Forum des Halles in Paris and La Vaguada in Madrid among its assets, announced an improvement in rent collection reaching 93% in the first quarter and expects it to improve further as operating conditions will normalize.
($1 = 0.9475 euros)
Reporting by Olivier Cherfan and Federica Mileo in Gdansk; edited by Jane Merriman and Cynthia Osterman
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