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NewRiver Retail – Fast track growth

Burgess Hill Development

Since its creation in 2009 NewRiver Retail has experienced phenomenal growth having been transformed from a £25m business into one of the leading players in the UK property retail sector with over £1bn assets under management. Construction Industry News recently caught up with Allan Lockhart, Property Director, to see how this meteoric rise has been achieved.

“We started the company initially by listing on the AIM London Stock Market,” explains Mr Lockhart. “We have since gained a strong reputation for creating value and delivering high, sustainable income returns for our investors.

“We decided to focus on the retail and leisure sector because the management team has years of operational experience in this area. It’s a sector that is very dynamic, constantly evolving and changing, and we are strong believers that sector specialisation over the long term leads to higher performance.”

And so it has proved, with NewRiver Retail’s portfolio now including 33 UK-wide shopping centres, 22 retail warehouses, 14 high street assets and a portfolio of 358 pubs. Its retail estate has over 1,400 occupiers across 7m sq ft with an occupancy of 96 per cent and total annual footfall of over 146m shoppers.

“We decided to focus on the retail and leisure sector because the management team has years of operational experience in this area. It’s a sector that is very dynamic, constantly evolving and changing, and we are strong believers that sector specialisation over the long term leads to higher performance.”

Allan Lockhart, Property Director

“We have consistently delivered strong financial performance to our shareholders, so the business is very profitable and we’ve been able to increase our profit annually. We’ve got a highly experienced team that has excellent knowledge of asset management and development, enabling us to generate additional value from our portfolio through our asset management and development activity, which has been fed into the corporate performance of NewRiver.

“We have a very disciplined approach and manage our assets intensively. We really understand how the retail market and leisure market operates and by sticking to our strategy and our business plan we have been able to provide excellent financial returns to our shareholders.”

Aside from the wealth of expertise that NewRiver Retail is able to draw upon, the company has also been blessed with superb timing in terms of market conditions, as Mr Lockhart points out: “The first three years after creating the business provided very good buying opportunities because the financial recession had an impact on asset values. We were therefore able to acquire assets at vastly discounted prices. That said, we remained very disciplined with our stock selection. We are a business that focuses very much on income returns over the long term, so in essence we’ve been looking to acquire retail and leisure assets with a high yield but with a low risk profile. We’ve utilised our experience over many many years through different cycles to analyse risk and price assets properly, so that has been an important factor for us. Through our asset management and our development strategies we’re able to sustain and grow the income returns, which in turn allows us to add further value to our portfolio.”

Allan Lockhart, Property Director

Allan Lockhart, Property Director

As NewRiver’s portfolio has grown so has its team to ensure the infrastructure is in place to support its expansion. “Over the years we have grown the team from three employees to 44, as we’ve always been willing to invest in our staff to continually bring in people with the necessary skills and experience to take us to the next stage in our development. It’s been absolutely vital that we have strong platforms in place to provide the framework for the following growth phase. As the company continues to grow we’ll be investing further in our team and in our infrastructure.”

With this forward-thinking ethos fully ingrained into the business, NewRiver is committed to keeping the wheels of innovation turning. “We have a number of objectives that we’re looking to achieve in the next 12 months,” concludes Mr Lockhart. “We hope to increase the size of our portfolio through further acquisitions, this is one of our key aims, and we have a number of developments we are currently working on that we would like to progress with. We’ve recently secured planning consent for a major redevelopment of our shopping centre in Burgess Hill to provide about 160,000 sq ft of retail, 150 residential units, a 60-plus bedroom hotel, a multiplex cinema and some restaurants. Within the next 12 months we aim to have started our construction of that development which we are very excited about.

“We are also due to submit a planning application for another major mixed-use development project in Cowley in Oxford to redevelop part of our shopping centre to deliver 250 residential units and a 60-plus bedroom hotel, a restaurant and refurbishment of the shopping centre and public realm. This will be a major project for us and within the next year we would hope to be in a position to have secured planning and be gearing up to start the construction of that development. There’s certainly plenty more to come.”


OBITUARY

NewRiver Retail Obituary-Francois Nairac - NewRiver Retail 2015-347

Francois Nairac – Development Director at NewRiver

Francois Nairac, Development Director at the listed REIT, NewRiver Retail, passed away on Tuesday 19 April following a valiant but short battle with cancer. He was a giant amongst men, much loved and respected by both colleagues and peers and will be much missed by all.

Francois had over 25 years experience in real estate, managing a large variety of developments including retail, hotels and residential. Prior to joining NewRiver, Francois was project manager at Halladale before going on to build a highly successful development team at NewRiver.