MIDAS SHARE TIPS: British Land, founded to help individuals buy plots of land so they could vote in General Elections, thriving 70 years after listing
My mother might never forgive me if I revealed her age on these pages but suffice to say, she was a child when the Queen acceded to the throne in 1952. Ask her what she remembers from that time and she says: ‘Chocolate was on the ration, no one had any money, but we just got on with our lives.’
Ask my dad, who was a teenager at the time, and he says: ‘Going out, drinking and meeting girls.’
A lot has changed since then – but not everything. People still want treats, they still love to socialise and they still need places to live, work and have fun.
In a good space: British Land is developing Regent’s Place in King’s Cross
Successful businesses are those which recognise those necessities, but also move with the times.
Several firms are living examples of that. They were listed on the stock market back in the 1950s and are still thriving today.
One of those is British Land. It was founded in 1856 to help individuals buy plots of land so they could vote in General Elections.
The group was floated on the stock market nearly a century later, having helped to rebuild much of Central London after the Blitz.
The company still has an active presence in the capital, but the group has been transformed since those days, both in terms of the properties it owns and the way they are managed.
Two-thirds of British Land’s portfolio is now devoted to what chief executive Simon Carter describes as ‘campuses’ – developments that include homes, offices, shops, places to eat and drink, and plenty of outdoor space.
Regent’s Place in King’s Cross is one such venue – rapidly turning into a technology hub, as well as a sought-after venue for retailers, restaurateurs and hipsters.
Carter is also developing a 53-acre site in Canada Water, East London, which will have 3,000 net-zero homes as well as offices, swimming pools, shops and acres of parkland.
Even older sites, such as Broadgate in the City, are constantly under review, with buildings from the 1980s renovated and turned into energy-efficient, top-end properties, peppered with the collaborative spaces that are in demand today.
British Land is also the largest owner of retail parks across the country – out-of-town centres such as Meadowhall in Yorkshire, Whiteley in Hampshire and Fort Kinnaird near Edinburgh.
These were hit during the pandemic, but they have bounced back in recent months, with occupancy now at more than 97 per cent.
Showing that even large companies can be nimble, British Land has swiftly moved into another sector – urban logistics – where it has built up a £1billion-plus portfolio in the past year, most of it in London, where distribution centres are in desperately short supply.
Results last week showed that British Land’s ability to pre-empt and adapt to change is paying off handsomely. Profits for 2021 rose 25 per cent to £251million, the portfolio increased almost 7 per cent in value to more than £10billion, and the dividend surged 46 per cent to 21.92p. Significantly too, new leases rose to ten-year highs and rental agreements were consistently ahead of the market.
Midas verdict: British Land has stood the test of time for more than 160 years, and recent activity suggests that it will continue to do so. The group cannot buck the wider economy, but it builds places where people and businesses want to be – at prices they can afford. The shares were more than £6 before the pandemic. Now just £5.19, they are an attractive, long-term buy.
Traded on: Main market Ticker: BLND Contact: britishland.com or 020 7486 4466