Busi­ness craves cer­tainty in EU talks, warns Land Se­cu­ri­ties chief

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Rhi­an­non Bury and Anna Isaac

THE ne­go­ti­a­tions around the UK’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union are pro­gress­ing too slowly for busi­ness, re­sult­ing in un­nec­es­sary un­cer­tainty, the boss of prop­erty com­pany Land Se­cu­ri­ties has said.

Rob Noel said that ne­go­ti­a­tions were “not mov­ing as quickly as busi­ness would like”. He added: “All busi­ness craves is cer­tainty, and to some ex­tent it doesn’t mat­ter what the eco­nomic con­di­tions are as long as they know the trad­ing land­scape.”

His com­ments came as a sep­a­rate sur­vey from the In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors found that 46pc of busi­nesses feel un­able to plan ahead at the mo­ment in or­der to adapt their busi­ness mod­els or sup­ply chains ahead of quit­ting the EU.

Land Se­cu­ri­ties had a solid first half, with rev­enue profits, its pre­ferred mea­sure, up 5pc to £203m in the six months to Sept 30. It was boosted by a huge of­fice let­ting to Deutsche Bank, as well as the open­ing of a new West­gate shop­ping cen­tre in Ox­ford.

Leas­ing ac­tiv­ity across its port­fo­lio was at its high­est level since the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, it said, de­spite con­cerns that firms would put prop­erty de­ci­sions on hold while the UK’s re­la­tion­ship with the EU re­mains un­clear. Its div­i­dend was 19.7p in the six-month pe­riod, 10.1pc higher than the same time last year.

Dur­ing the pe­riod it also sold 20 Fenchurch Street, bet­ter known as the Walkie Talkie, to Hong Kong in­vestor Lee Kum Kee for £1.28bn. Land Se­cu­ri­ties had a 50pc stake in the build­ing, so re­turned £475m to share­hold­ers.

But Mr Noel said his main aim was to lower risk by re­duc­ing debt and mak­ing sure the build­ings the firm owns are able to with­stand a down­turn in the econ­omy. The com­pany only sold the Walkie Talkie be­cause it had re­ceived an of­fer it “couldn’t turn down”, he added. “We don’t think it’s the right time to push the but­ton on spec­u­la­tive devel­op­ment, and we don’t think it’s the right time to buy as­sets,” he said. “

Shares closed down 2.1pc at 921p. Mean­while, the IoD sur­vey also found that UK busi­ness lead­ers would pre­fer to stick with EU rules on goods and ser­vices in or­der to pre­serve their cur­rent trad­ing re­la­tion­ships.

In a sur­vey of more than 900 IoD mem­bers, 51pc of busi­nesses wanted to keep the cur­rent lev­els of ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket, in or­der to main­tain con­ti­nu­ity with their cur­rent busi­ness plans.

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