01 Jun 2022

Well Positioned to Capture Continued Growth

Link Asset Management Limited, (Link) the manager of Link Real Estate Investment Trust, (Link REIT, stock code: 823) has announced results for the year ended 31 March 2022.

Nicholas Allen, Chairman, said:

“We are pleased to present our full year results for March 2022 and to report continued growth in distribution to our unitholders for the 17th year in a row. Our portfolio has continued to demonstrate resilience and we are seeing a healthy rebound in business activity despite lingering pandemic-related disruptions. The prevailing concerns over geopolitical risks, inflation, market volatility, supply chain disruptions and the ongoing impact of the pandemic inevitably pose challenges to our operations. We will remain focused on prioritising sustainable income growth, capital appreciation and downside protection in our pursuit of Vision 2025.”

George Hongchoy, Chief Executive Officer, said:

“We always actively manage our portfolio and assets and the pandemic has not hindered our approach. From April last year to May 2022, approximately $15 billion worth of real estate investment was completed and another $11 billion of investment was announced, consisting of 17 quality assets spanning across different geographies and asset classes. With our solid business foundation, we continuously evaluate organic and inorganic growth opportunities. We are also strengthening our team capability to ensure we are well positioned to capture new opportunities.”

Financial Highlights

2021/2022
$ (m)

2020/2021
$ (m)

%
change

Total distributable amount

6,419

6,010

+6.8%

Full-year distribution per unit

305.67 cents

289.99 cents

+5.4%*

Revenue

11,602

10,744

+8.0%

Net property income

8,776

8,238

+6.5%

Profit

6,907

752

+818.5%

NAV per unit

$77.10

$76.24

+1.1%

Investment properties valuation

212,761

199,074

+6.9%


*Note: Excluding the discretionary distribution 7 cents (2021: 14 cents), DPU for the year increased by 8.2% to 298.67 cents (2021: 275.99 cents).

Overview
In the pursuit of Vision 2025, Link’s key performance indicators reflect resilient business performance despite the ongoing macroeconomic challenges and uncertainties.

  • Financial
    • Occupancy has improved from 96.8% to 97.7% in Hong Kong retail as at 31 March 2022.
    • Over 660 new leases were signed in Hong Kong retail portfolio in addition to renewals in full year.
    • Excluding the discretionary distribution 7 cents, distribution per unit (DPU) for the year grew by 8.2% to 298.67 cents.

  • Portfolio
    • From April 2021 to May 2022, approximately $15 billion worth of real estate investment was completed and another $11 billion of investment was announced, consisting of 17 assets spanning different geographies and asset types.
    • Total value of investment properties rose 6.9% to $212,761 million due to acquisitions of assets and exchange gains.
    • Completed three asset enhancement projects in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

  • Tenant Support Scheme
    • Upsized tenant support scheme to around $220 million and sponsored $13 million worth of food and beverage coupons to shoppers.

 

Hong Kong portfolio

Link’s Hong Kong portfolio showed encouraging results early in the year with the COVID recovery well underway. Retail revenue and car park and related business revenue improved by 2.7% and 13.2% year-on-year, respectively.

Link’s healthy long standing relationships with its tenants and shoppers and active asset management helped maintain the overall rental collection rate at a strong level of 98% for the reporting year. As at the financial year end, retail occupancy reached a high level of 97.7%, even under the fifth wave of COVID. Despite the challenges in lease negotiations, over 660 new leases were signed during the year. Hong Kong overall average reversion rate edged up to 4.8%. Average unit rent improved slightly to $62.7 per square foot (psf).

Although the business experienced disruption due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the community, Link’s tenants still delivered a stable 7.8% year-on-year growth in tenant gross sales psf, outperforming Hong Kong’s average. Overall rent-to-sales ratio stayed at the healthy level of 13.1%.

Since February 2022, Link has been running a $120 million tenant support scheme to help alleviate tenants’ financial burdens. The scheme was then upsized to around $220 million. A range of support measures were offered on a case-by-case basis, including rents reductions, grant of rent-free periods, allowing rent payment by instalments, and late payments interest charges and service charges waiver.

Notwithstanding the negative impact of the fifth wave of COVID on footfall at Link’s malls, car park performance remained steady and resilient. During the financial year, monthly car park ticket sales remained stable while hourly car park usage significantly improved. The acquisition of two institutional grade car park/car service centres and godown buildings in Hung Hom and Chai Wan in December 2021 brought Link three months of rental revenue amounting $52 million during the year. As a result, revenue from car parks and related business recorded a 13.2% year-on-year growth.

The Quayside, Link’s flagship office property in Kowloon East, continued to attract high-quality tenants and has outperformed the market with committed occupancy standing at around 96.6% as at 17 May 2022.

Mainland China portfolio

During the financial year, Link expanded its footprint by adding four investments, namely 50% interests in Qibao Vanke Plaza in Shanghai in April 2021, Happy Valley Shopping Mall in Guangzhou in June 2021 and 75% interests in two logistics properties in Dongguan and Foshan in October 2021. As a result, its Mainland China portfolio achieved 20.9% and 15.9% growth in total revenue and net property income, respectively. Overall rental collection remained healthy at 97%. Its five 100%-owned shopping malls recorded an average reversion of 8.8%.

Although the recent outbreak of COVID in Mainland China dampened retail sentiment, overall average occupancy of Mainland retail portfolio remained steady at 88.5% as at 31 March 2022. Excluding Happy Valley Shopping Mall, overall average occupancy would be higher at 92.3%.

Link Square, Link’s grade A office property in Shanghai, edged up to 97% occupancy as at 31 March 2022 despite the new office supply in the city on the back of a reversion of -8.1%. To retain its competitiveness among premium grade A offices, Link Square is targeting to complete its enhancement of its office lobby and common areas in 2022.   

Link’s two 75%-owned modern logistics properties in Dongguan and Foshan, which were acquired in October 2021, continued to be fully let to reputable tenants. As at 31 March 2022, the two assets have a weighted average lease expiry (WALE) of 2.5 years and 3.4 years, respectively.

Following the financial year end, Link successfully acquired three logistics properties in the Yangtze River Delta in May 2022. Two of those are recently completed assets which are fully-leased to reputable third party logistics and e-commerce tenants. One of them is under the final stage of construction.

Overseas portfolio

During the financial year, the two office assets, 100 Market Street in Australia and The Cabot in the United Kingdom, continued to provide a stable income stream with 100% occupancy rate by blue-chip tenants, contributing a total of $482 million revenue and $339 million net property income, respectively.

Link seized the opportunity to scale up its investment in Australia during the year. It includes the acquisition of 50% interest in three iconic retail assets in Sydney which is expected to complete shortly and 49.9% interest in five prime office assets in Sydney and Melbourne which has been completed on 1 June 2022.

Overall rental collection rate of overseas assets remained healthy at 97% as at the end of March 2022.

Asset Enhancement

Two asset enhancement projects at Hing Wah Plaza and Tai Wo Plaza in Hong Kong were completed in first half of 2021/2022, involving a total capex of $86 million. They were estimated to achieve a return on investments (ROIs) of 13.2% and 3.6%, respectively. In 2021/2022, Link’s 13 buildings were installed with solar panels. Upon the installation, Link’s expanded solar panel installation roadmap has been covered a total of 47 properties in Hong Kong.

Link’s first large-scale asset enhancement project in Mainland China, Link CentralWalk in Shenzhen’s Futian district, was also completed in January 2022 with a total capex of RMB 286 million and an ROI of 11%. The asset enhancement project at Happy Valley Shopping Mall in Guangzhou will be conducted in phases and the first phase is expected to start in this financial year with an estimated capex of more than RMB 150 million.

Going forward, Link targets to spend an aggregate of over $1 billion capex on asset enhancements projects.

Capital Management

In light of the impact of expected interest rate hikes in the year ahead, Link has proactively secured low-cost financing in advance, reserving liquidity for business development and acquisition needs. Link arranged a total of $30.8 billion debt comprising bonds and bank loans in different currencies, with a record-low average borrowing cost of 2.3% for the financial year. Total debt rose to $50.2 billion, while the gearing ratio increased from 18.4% to 22% as at 31 March 2022.

Link first announced the discretionary distribution plan in November 2019 to replace the loss of DPU resulting from the group’s prior divestments. While Link continues to honour its earlier commitment to return this capital to unitholders, which amounts in this case to approximately $150 million, it believes that an announced unit buyback programme is of greater benefit which can provide a better and longer-term value proposition than a one-off discretionary distribution. The execution of the buyback programme depends on market conditions, unit price, trading volume and other regulatory considerations.  

A total of 1.3 million units were bought back during the financial year at an average price of $65.2, utilising an aggregated cost of $82.6 million.

The announcement of Link REIT’s annual results has been posted on the HKEXnews website and is accessible via the following hyperlink:

https://www1.hkexnews.hk/listedco/listconews/sehk/2022/0601/2022060100732.pdf

Note: All dollar amounts are in Hong Kong dollars unless specified otherwise.

Appendix

Financial Highlights for the Year Ended 31 March 2022

Download Annual Results Presentation

Download High Resolution Photo

– End –

About Link

Link Real Estate Investment Trust (Hong Kong stock code: 823), managed by Link Asset Management Limited, is the largest REIT in Asia, and a leading real estate investor and asset manager in the world. Listed in 2005 as the first REIT in Hong Kong, Link has been 100% held by public and institutional investors and is a Hang Seng Index constituent stock. From its home in Hong Kong, Link owns and manages a diversified portfolio including retail facilities, car parks, offices and logistics assets spanning China’s Beijing, Greater Bay Area (Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen), and Yangtze River Delta centred around Shanghai, the UK’s London and Australia’s Sydney and Melbourne. Link seeks to extend its portfolio growth trajectory and grasp expansion opportunities in different markets in pursuit of its medium-term target Vision 2025.

For details, please visit https://www.linkreit.com.

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