(Reuters) - British shopping centre operator Hammerson Plc said on Monday it won the backing of shareholder Elliot Advisors on its plans to sell more assets to cut debt and expand its board.
The company, which sold assets worth 570 million pounds in 2018, said it would look to dispose more than 500 million pounds of assets in 2019, adding that it was in active discussions on deals with a total value of over 900 million pounds.
The owner of Birmingham's Bullring and London's Brent Cross reported a 6.2 percent decline in net rental income to 347.5 million pounds for the year ended Dec. 31, as company failures hit occupancy at its malls.
Hammerson said it plans to appoint two more non-executive directors in 2019 and establish an investment and disposal committee to oversee its divestments.
"This increased focus on strategic disposals, as marked by updated targets for 2019 and a current pipeline of potential sales of over £900 million, signals a positive development in the company’s progress, and its ability to ensure that its portfolio of high quality assets delivers compelling value for all shareholders," U.S. activist investor Elliott said in a separate statement.
Elliott, which held a 5.3 percent stake in Hammerson as of July 5, entered an agreement with the company, including a commitment that the U.S. hedge fund would vote in favour of the resolutions recommended by Hammerson at the upcoming general meeting.
Elliott also agreed not to increase its voting interests and economic interests in the company above 10 percent and 15 percent, respectively. The agreement is expected to remain in force for a maximum of 12 months.
Hammerson cut its debt by 179 million pounds to 3.4 billion pounds at the end of Dec. 31 and said it targets debt of 3 billion for 2019.
(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Bernard Orr)