February 10, 2020 / 7:27 AM / 8 days ago

Intu in talks with major shareholder Whittaker, new investors to raise cash

(Reuters) - Shopping centre operator Intu (INTUP.L) said on Monday it was in talks with its largest shareholder John Whittaker’s Peel Group and new investors including Hong Kong-based Link Real Estate Investment Trust to raise funds to shore up its balance sheet.

The debt-laden company said in January it was targeting an equity raise by the end of February to tackle its debt load as it engaged in discussions with shareholders and potential new investors.

Shares in the owner of Manchester’s Trafford Centre rose 4.5% to 14 pence by 0822 GMT.

Intu has struggled to reduce its debt amid increasing store closures on Britain’s high street and as retailers focus on online sales to cut costs. The company’s net debt stood at 4.68 billion pounds as of June 2019.

The company did not say how much it was looking to raise, however, the Sunday Times reported last month that it could be as much as 1 billion pounds.

Whittaker made a 2.9 billion pounds approach for the company in 2018 but later dropped it. Rival Hammerson (HMSO.L) also abandoned a 3.4 billion pounds takeover offer for Intu in 2018.

Citigroup last month slashed its target price for Intu’s shares to just one pence after a media report that the plunging value of one of the company’s flagship properties triggered a covenant in its largest bond.

Reporting by Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Aditya Soni

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