The number of listed property companies issuing profit warnings rose by 400% last year, as the sector struggled to cope amid 10 months of coronavirus restrictions.
FTSE-listed real estate companies issued 30 profit warnings in 2020, the highest number in 22 years, according to data from EY’s latest profit warnings report.
The surge in real estate profit warnings outpaced all other industries, with the energy sector seeing a 138% rise in warnings and consumer staples posting a 136% increase.
Within real estate, a third of listed property investment and services firms issued warnings, and 17% of REITs did.
EY corporate finance leader Fraser Greenshields told Property Week that when the government support measures ended, he expected to see a notable rise in corporate defaults.
“While the real estate sector may be hoping for more interventions in the chancellor’s budget, there will likely remain a gap between the eventual withdrawal of government support and demand returning to profitable levels,” he said.
“Without further government intervention, we may see tenant evictions increase and landlords in distress.”
Some retail landlords have already shown signs of severe distress, with Hammerson pursuing an emergency rights issue last summer, raising £552m at a 95% discount to share price as part of an £852m rescue plan.
Other businesses that struggled included British Land, which posted a pre-tax loss of £757m for the six months to the end of September, and residential developer Watkin Jones, whose pre-tax profit plummeted 47.1% in the year to 30 September 2020.
In a statement released with the report, Greenshields added that there would be increased restructuring within the real estate market this year, as borrowers started to run out of money.
“In the long term, the industry needs a radical rethink,” he said.
Overall, UK-listed companies issued 583 profit warnings in 2020, the highest annual total in 22 years of EY research and 15% higher than the previous record of 506 in 2001.