Its full results to December 31 adjusted recurring EPS was €7.28 ($A11.42), 3 per cent below market forecast.
Shares in URW’s ASX-listed depository interest were last down 4.2 per cent at $4.635.
Stripping out the impact of COVID-19 and an accounting change, underlying EPS was down 1 per cent year on year.
Reflecting the hard-hit retail sector by the pandemic, asset values declined 11.3 per cent for the year.
Like-for-like (LFL) comparable shopping centre net rental income (NRI) was down by 24 per cent for the Group, mainly driven by the impact of COVID-19 through rent relief and higher bad debt provisioning.
The UK operations, being the Westfield London mall in St Johns Wood and the mall at Stratford, the home of the London Olympics, were hit the hardest, falling 49.3 per cent due to bankruptcies and store closures.
In Continental Europe sales were down 19.1 per cent, while in the US the fall was 28 per cent.
In an attempt to stem the red ink, the board in February 2020, before the pandemic swept over the world, undertook a €9 billion ($14.5 billion) balance sheet restoration package which comprised a fully underwritten rights issue and signalled more asset sales.
Jean-Marie Tritant, URW chief executive said overnight in Paris, that “2020 has been a year like no other in URW’s history and I want to thank our outstanding teams for showing true resilience”.
“They have worked tirelessly since March last year to help our Group, our tenants and our communities to handle this unprecedented situation,” Mr Tritant said.
“With restrictions in place across almost all of our markets we have realistic expectations for 2021 but are encouraged by the way footfall and sales bounced back strongly whenever restrictions were eased or lifted last year.”
Macquarie Equities analyst Stuart McLean said URW continues to walk the tight-rope.
“While the group does have liquidity for 24 months, an inability to resolve the balance sheet via asset sales prior to this could place pressure on the group’s ability to access debt,” Mr McLean said in a note to clients.
“We anticipate continued asset value declines from here, placing further pressure on the long term value.
“While URW believe they have liquidity to last about 24 months, there is a risk an absence of divestments results in more limited deleveraging compared to its strategy placing pressure on its ability to access debt markets. URW said it anticipates the €4bn European asset disposal plan (with €3.2bn remaining) will now be complete by 2022, compared to prior guidance of 2021.
Mr Tritant said further, divestments of the US assets (~€12bn) will be impacted by challenging fundamentals (including 13 per cent vacancy in flagship assets) combined with an already limited appetite from capital for US malls pre-pandemic.
Overall vacancy increased to 8.3 per cent across the portfolio, driven by UK (9.7%), US (13.1%), while Europe remained more muted (4.9%).
URW was impacted by 652 bankruptcies, with 186 remaining vacant.
URW anticipate leasing to improve in CY22 on the back of an improving macro-economic backdrop and government stimulus, albeit the latter is a one-off impact.
— to www.smh.com.au