I am pleased to present the Company’s 2020 Annual Results.
Helical has had another successful year, delivering a Total Property Return of 9.6%, Total Accounting Return on EPRA net assets of 9.3% and an increase in EPRA Net Asset Value per share of 6.0%. This was reflected in a Total Shareholder Return of 8.7%.
The year also saw the completion of a full development cycle which started in March 2011 when we acquired, in joint venture, 3.2 acres of land and buildings at Barts Square, London EC1. By March 2020, we had built or refurbished 2.3m sq ft of office space across 20 buildings in London and Manchester and delivered 236 residential apartments (0.2m sq ft). Today, the Group has a high-quality portfolio of new or recently refurbished Grade A offices in London and Manchester.
However, these results are announced during a period of considerable uncertainty with the timing and strength of the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic yet to be determined. For the office sector, questions are being asked about the desire to return to previous working practices. As we move through the various stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and arrive at the so-called “new normal”, we shall learn how businesses and their staff view their experiences and the productivity of working from home. What we do know, however, is that people are sociable and prefer to congregate together, both at work and at play.
It is our view that a large majority of businesses will continue to seek space for their employees to gather in a centralised working environment and that the draw of London, as a pre-eminent global city, will remain. It is our challenge to ensure that what we have to offer is attractive to these businesses. We believe they will continue to seek well located and accessible buildings near large and modern transport hubs, served with the latest technology but with an increased focus on health and well-being within sustainable buildings. Our properties, with spacious, light filled floors let on flexible leases and served by multiple transport options, amenity rich with sizeable bike storage and changing facilities, will continue to provide the features of office life that our tenants and their employees are seeking.
We anticipate there will be a growing divergence in the office sector between Grade A buildings and the rest. The response from both occupiers and investors following Covid-19 is likely to accelerate this process and we are confident that the successful delivery of our strategy in recent years means we are positioned on the right side of this gap, with our Grade A buildings offering an appealing environment for businesses seeking high quality space.
The Company has robust finances and will seek to protect Shareholder value and meet the challenges that the coming months will bring. Going forward, Helical has £279m of cash and undrawn bank facilities available to pursue its strategy of growing the business when the opportunities arise.