Home of Mortgage Business Expo could be torn down by top property developer

Home of Mortgage Business Expo could be torn down by top property developer


By Stephanie Baxter

Business is booming at top London property developer Capital and Counties (CapCo), who this week reported half year profits and is set to embark on a billion-pound redevelopment of its Earls Court Exhibition Centre.


The centre is best known by brokers as the original home of the annual Mortgage Business Expo, although last year (post-crunch) saw the event consigned to the smaller, sister site of Kensington Olympia.


CapCo, which branched off from shopping centre developers Capital Shopping Centres PLC – formerly Liberty International –revealed this week its plans to launch a new residential project on the site of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre after the 2012 Olympics.


The developer has been working with a range of public bodies, including adjoining land owner Transport for London, to prepare the project.


Although the redevelopment scheme is still in the planning stage, CapCo remains confident that the recent appointment of architects Terry Farrell and Partners as master planner for the project has moved the process along swiftly.


CapCo is hoping a joint vision for the site – based upon Sir Terry Farrell’s master plan principles – will be decided in the autumn.


The project, which will take more than a decade to complete and could see the current Earls Court Exhibition Centre torn down, is predicted to cost billions of pounds.


CapCo hopes to have a planning application ready by 2011 for the development of the Earls Court site, which is now recognised as an Opportunity Area given its location and excellent public transport links.


The £340 million Earls Court & Olympia Exhibition business, which accounts for about a quarter of CapCo’s portfolio, has been affected by the economic downturn with a turnover decrease of 15 per cent for the first half of the year.


But Ian Hawksworth, chief executive of CapCo, said: “The exhibition business has demonstrated a resilient performance and momentum is building towards obtaining planning consents for a long term development of Earls Court.”


Talking today to the Wall Street Journal, JP Morgan analyst Harm Meijer said there is “at least 37 pence per share hidden value in the Earls Court site, which will be released over time.”


CapCo’s first set of results since becoming an independent company show that its property portfolio rose 5.3% in value to £1.3 billion in the first half of the year, thanks to its focus on central London. The report also revealed a loan-to-value ratio of 36% and cash resources of £187 million.


CapCo currently has three landmark estates in key city areas such as Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Regent Street and last week was shortlisted to be an investor for a multimillion pound residential scheme at Lords Cricket Ground.



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