StockMarketWire.com - Shopping centre landlord Intu said it would move to sell assets and likely raise equity to repair its balance sheet amid a slump in leasing activity.

Chief executive Matthew Roberts said in a trading statement that the company's 'number one priority' was fixing its balance sheet.

'We continue to consider all options to put us in the best position to deal with both our short and medium term liquidity requirements as we approach our next material debt maturity in early 2021,' he said.

'These options include disposing of assets, where we are in the advanced stages of selling two of our Spanish assets, through to raising equity, which is also likely to form part of the solution.'

Intu said political and economic uncertainty was causing customers to delay new lettings, with letting activity in the third quarter slower than forecast and at a lower level than 2018.

The company was also seeing more company voluntary arrangements, which involve landlords taking a haircut on rents when tenants experience financial difficulties.

In the nine months through September, Intu signed 156 long-term leases producing £19m of annual rent, compared with 200 leases signed producing £32m on-year.

Occupancy at 30 September fell to 95.1% from 97%, but remained unchanged from at the end of June.

Looking ahead, Intu said it anticipated that like-for-like net rental income for 2019 would be down by around 9%.

'We expect 2020 like-for-like net rental income to continue to decline, but at a slower rate than 2019,' it added.

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