AN INDUSTRIAL property chief has sounded a clear message that development in the Thames Valley is the priority after his company sold 10 estates for £111m.
SEGRO, the leading European owner-manager and developer of industrial property, announced it had completed the sale of 10 non-core UK regional industrial estates, in locations including Portsmouth and Bristol, at the end of June.
Chief executive David Sleath has said that the company, which owns Slough Trading Estate and offices in Winnersh, will continue to 'reshape its portfolio', but confirmed he had no plans to sell off business in the 'key market' of the Thames Valley. Speaking to the Business Review, Mr Sleath said: "We have made further operational progress against a challenging macro-
economic backdrop and have made an encouraging start to the portfolio reshaping programme.
"Slough Trading Estate is really helping us with our progress - it makes up 20% of our business - and is the biggest individual estate we have. It has been a big success with new developments.
"We have been investing in the infrastructure and are very pleased with the progress the estate is making. It is an important contribution to the overall progress of the group. The Thames Valley is a key market for us and we are delighted with how things are going."
He was speaking after the company posted its six-month results ending June 30. The company announced it secured £13.3m of new annualised contracted rental income, achieved a group customer retention rate of 63%, completed seven developments and signed seven new pre-let developments across its portfolio in the six months.
Mr Sleath added: "We remain committed to developing our business in the Thames Valley.
"We are trying to focus on the south east and we are selling things in places like Manchester and Bristol because we want to get a real control in the Thames Valley market place - rather than our business be fragmented."
Businesses in the south east are eagerly anticipating the possible western rail link to Heathrow - which would cut journeys from the airport to Slough to only six minutes - after the Government announced plans to invest £500m into the project. But the property giant is yet to see any direct investment after the announcement. Mr Sleath added: "I think investment will come and I think it will be important in keeping companies on the Slough Trading Estate.
"Getting in and out of Heathrow is important - office occupiers can't get the parking spaces they need and they need to get public transport.
"Nobody has come in off the back of the announcement yet, but I'm sure it will be important as we go forward and it takes congestion off the road."
He added: "Being selfish, I would also like to see the future expansion at Heathrow. We need a competitive airport and need that capacity. We are keen to see a development at Heathrow - it is vital to the Thames Valley."