April 26, 2018 / 5:24 PM / a month ago

RPT-Klepierre remains interested in Britain, despite failure of Hammerson deal

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By Manon Jacob

April 26 (Reuters) - French property group Klepierre said on Thursday it was still interested in acquiring assets in Britain after its failed attempt to take over rival Hammerson, despite a difficult commercial environment there.

Klepierre abandoned its 5 billion pound ($7 billion) bid for Hammerson two weeks ago, accusing the British property company of failing to provide “meaningful engagement” over a potential deal.

“We made an indicative proposal to acquire Hammerson a few weeks ago, so we cannot say we are not interested in the UK market,” Jean-Michel Gault, deputy CEO of Klepierre, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Gault said the group still viewed Britain as an attractive and dynamic market, where it would want to develop some assets.

But in a difficult commercial real estate context, British retailers have been suffering as inflation-hit consumers cut back on spending, making many investors wary of the sector.

“We are not overly concerned about a potential negative effect of Brexit since, at Klepierre, we always look for long-term investments. That’s why we have such a geographically diversified portfolio, (...) when one market doesn’t have a good dynamic, another generally picks up,” Gault said.

The company released first-quarter results on Thursday, with sales growth of 3.4 percent for the whole group compared to the previous year, driven by the performance of Iberia (+6.4 percent), and France-Belgium (+3.1 percent), offsetting the Italian slowdown.

The company reiterated its outlook for 2018.

Klepierre approached Hammerson after the British company had agreed an all-share offer to buy smaller rival Intu Properties . Hammerson’s proposed 3.4 billion pound takeover of Intu was later scrapped.

Klepierre had wanted to buy Hammerson without Intu Properties but finally abandoned its final 635 pence-a-share bid after Hammerson repeatedly stated that Klepierre’s offer undervalued it.

The group’s shares went down 9 percent after it approached Hammerson and back up more than 4 percent when it dropped the deal.

According to Jefferies analysts, Klepierre might re-bid for the British peer in the coming months, but this time with a lower offer after Hammerson withdrew its bid on Intu. ($1 = 0.7180 pounds) (Reporting by Manon Jacob in Gdynia; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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