Hammerson has posted a 29% fall in the value of its net assets after enduring a year when its shopping centres were shuttered for months during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Hammerson boss Rita-Rose Gagné pointed to further disposals to “strengthen the balance sheet”

The group’s annual figures to the end of December produced the largest fall in net rental income and UK asset values in the group’s history.

The retail group, which owns centres including the Bullring in Birmingham and Cabot Circus in Bristol, revealed net tangible assets fell to 82p per share in 2020, from £1.16 in 2019.

Annual losses more than doubled at the firm as the value of its properties dropped and rental income plunged during the health crisis. The group reported an IFRS loss of £1.7bn for 2020, compared with a £781m loss in the previous year.

Net rental income plunged 49% to £157.6m due to the restructuring of tenant deals and a higher provision for bad debts. The value of Hammerson’s portfolio fell to £6.34bn from £8.3bn.

Rita-Rose Gagné, chief executive of Hammerson, said: “By any measure, 2020 was an unprecedented year with every business and household affected by Covid-19. Our teams have worked tirelessly and shown remarkable commitment throughout the pandemic to ensure that we continue to keep our colleagues, customers and communities safe.

“However, if this pandemic has highlighted anything, it is how much we all crave human contact as inherently social beings. As a business, Hammerson provides the places and social infrastructure where people want and need to be, and I am confident it will have a vital role in shaping neighbourhoods and communities in the future.”

Gagné also pointed to further disposals to “strengthen the balance sheet”.

She added: “We are currently working on a thorough strategic and organisational review that will map out a route to future growth to transform the business in the context of what will remain a tough economic and structural backdrop.”

The FTSE 250 group proposed a 0.2p final dividend, bringing the full-year dividend to 0.4p, compared with 5.1p in 2019.

Colm Lauder, an analyst at Goodbody, said: ”Hammerson’s 2020 results were always going to make difficult reading given the unprecedented challenges faced by Covid-19 lockdowns on top of an already tested retail sector.

“Despite this, NAV and EPS were marginally ahead and debt levels stabilised year-on-year. New management and the acknowledgment that the worst is over present a considerable opportunity to reshape the business in 2021.”