The GPT Group held its 2022 Annual General Meeting yesterday and announced its operational update for the quarter ended 31 March 2022. Despite the challenging year occupancy is above 99%, which demonstrates the resilience and quality of its assets.
GPT’s Chief Executive Officer, Bob Johnston, said: “We have seen a strong recovery in sales over the last two months following the shadow lockdown from Omicron in January. March sales across our portfolio were generally well above 2019 levels with the main exception being Melbourne Central. Melbourne Central which prior to COVID was the most productive shopping centre in the country, is lagging in its recovery due to the slow return of workers to the CBD. The ramp-up of students attending classes, the re-opening of borders and the return of CBD workers will accelerate the recovery of this asset.
Retail portfolio occupancy was 99.2% at 31 March 2022 with solid leasing enquiry translating to 231 lease deals during the quarter.
Portfolio retail sales for the month of March, excluding Melbourne Central, were up 11.9% on 2019. Melbourne Central experienced a strong improvement over the quarter, with customer visitation up 17% and sales up 22% on the prior corresponding period.
Total Centre sales for the March 2022 quarter were up 4.6%, with February up 10.2% and March up 8.7%, compared to the same period last year. Total Specialty sales for the quarter were up 3.9% on the March 2021 quarter. Specialty sales productivity for the portfolio was $9,181 per square metre at 31 March 2022, representing an 8.4% increase on the prior year.
Highpoint Shopping Centre, with recent retailer remixing and new flagship stores, delivered strong Total Specialty sales growth in the quarter of 7.6% on the prior corresponding period. In March, Rebel Sport opened its new 2,500m2 Rebel rCX store at the centre, the largest Rebel store in Victoria.
Funds Management remains a key focus for the Group and in late-April UniSuper engaged with GPT on a proposal to transition the management of its portfolio of real estate investments from AMP Capital to GPT.
“I am pleased to report that UniSuper recently engaged with GPT on a proposal to transition the management of its portfolio of direct real estate investments. The portfolio of four retail and two office assets has a value of approximately $2.8 billion and includes the Karrinyup Shopping Centre, Perth, along with a 25% interest in Brookfield Place in Sydney,” said Johnston.
COVID has accelerated a number of trends, but one, in particular, is the future of how we work. Johnston said the Group had advanced its mixed-use schemes for many of its retail assets and is continuing to progress development opportunities across its Retail portfolio.
“The GPT Wholesale Shopping Centre Fund is also now in a strong position to execute on its mixed-use development pipeline, and consider acquisition opportunities to enhance the portfolio following the sale of Wollongong Central, and Casuarina Square,” said Johnston.
“The planned mixed-use development at the Rouse Hill Town Centre will capitalise on the exceptional performance of this asset. The Rouse Hill Town Centre is a beneficiary of direct connections to key infrastructure, including the rail and the proposed new public hospital. The development will deliver 10,500m2 of incremental retail space and over 220 residential apartments,”
“Adjoining the centre is the “9-hectare Northern Precinct” which provides us with a unique development opportunity, which will support a range of health, commercial and residential uses.
“In December last year, the masterplan for a mixed-use development at Highpoint Shopping Centre was approved, providing significant opportunity to add value to what is already a dominant asset in its market. The approved mixed-use masterplan allows the centre to transform into a true Urban Village. The approval provides for an additional 148,000m2 of commercial space and approximately 3,000 apartments when complete.