March 12, 2020 / 8:22 AM / in a month

UPDATE 1-Mall owner Intu flags going concern doubt as loss balloons to over $2 bln

(Adds details on results, background)

March 12 (Reuters) - British mall operator Intu Properties flagged doubts over its ability to continue operations on Thursday as it reported a 2 billion pound loss for 2019, while saying it expects falls in rental income to slow this year.

The owner of Manchester’s Trafford Centre and the Lakeside complex in Essex said it lost 2.02 billion pounds ($2.59 billion) in the 12 months to the end of December, almost double a 1.17 billion pound loss in 2018 as it suffered from the collapse of a number of major UK chains.

The company last week said it was at risk of breaching debt commitments in July after failing to gain the support of investors for its plan to raise more than a billion pounds in extra funding.

The London-listed company, which owns 20 properties in Britain and Spain, said on Thursday fixing its balance sheet was its “top priority” in the short term. It reported net debt of 4.69 billion pounds, and a debt to asset ratio of 67.8%, up from 53.1% in 2018.

To shore up its balance sheet, Intu axed its dividend last year and in the past few months has sold two properties in Spain and one in Northern Ireland.

The company said the continued decline in asset valuations and net rental income could result in financial debt commitment breaches and coupled with its inability to refinance debt, there was material uncertainty relating to its ability to continue as a going concern. ($1 = 0.7803 pounds) (Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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