Real Estate Investors plc has reported strong quarterly and monthly rent collection, despite the unprecedented and fast changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19, and has confirmed it is proceeding as planned with its dividend payment on 30 April 2020.
Chief executive Paul Bassi said he anticipated tough times ahead, but REI’s conservative gearing, diversified portfolio, controlled overheads and excellent banking relationships had already positioned the business to weather the storm.
“As a responsible and experienced landlord we have supported our tenants and this has resulted in strong rent collection with a high percentage of rents due at the March quarter and monthly rents due at the start of April having been paid.
“Where necessary, we are working with our tenants on a case-by-case basis to find payment solutions, including rental payments absorbed from any rental deposits held, or switching rent to be payable monthly rather than quarterly in advance, with the option to top up deposits at a future date.”
He said that generally occupiers had reacted to the present crisis in a responsible and cooperative manner.
“A small proportion, including a few well capitalised occupiers, have asked for a rent-free period, despite having strong balance sheets and being eligible for substantial government funding, to include a 12 month business rates waiver, VAT deferral and salary support.
“REI will not absorb these requests. We will be responding to provide some flexibility in their rental payments, but we will not be looking to accommodate a full waiver of rents or a rent-free period.”
REI will pay its impending dividend but is reserving its rights on future dividend payments as it continues to monitor economic conditions.
Mr Bassi said: “We accept that there will be a significant economic impact as a result of COVID-19, on a national and global basis, however we remain confident that the significant momentum behind the rebirth of the Midlands region, to include the confirmation of HS2, the Commonwealth Games in 2022, Coventry City of Culture in 2021 and significant business and population relocations to the region, will result in a positive economic bounce within our investment geography.”
He added that REI’s strategy to maintain a portfolio that is diversified meant that the company had no material reliance on any one sector, asset or occupier.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, our occupancy and rent collection has been resilient and its foundation is the diversity of our portfolio, operating in a vibrant economic region.
“Our occupiers are committed to returning to their premises, where they have a significant capital investment and continue to build their businesses.
“Our in-depth understanding of the region in which we operate, and our close proximity to the assets, plus our unique network allows us to stay in touch with our occupiers and continue to run our business prudently,” he said.