The factory outlet developer’s shares followed a 149% increase in 1997 by rising 63% to 371.5p last year, easily winning Property Week’s share performance league.
Fund managers continued to buy Freeport’s shares in expectation of big net asset value growth from future developments, evidenced by the 58% increase in NAV the company achieved in the year to June 1998. Freeport has the added advantage of being the only quoted factory outlet specialist.
The second best share was all-Ireland company Dunloe Ewart, the product of the merger between Dublin-based Dunloe and Belfast-based Ewart. Delancey, which saw a £100m capital injection from George Soros and his associates plus the appointment of james ritblat as managing director, came in at number three. Jermyn, which had been in the lead at the half-year stage, was in fourth place, followed by NHP (formerly Nursing Home Properties), which moved up from the AIM to the main market in August. The two specialist managed Workspace companies, Workspace and Birkby, both had good years, with their shares rising 18% and 15% respectively.
But overall it was a dismal year for the property sector. The average property share, as measured by the FT property index, dropped by 22% after rising 21% in 1997. Only eight of the 71 companies that started the year with a market capitalisation of more than £25m outperformed the FT All-Share Index, and just 10 saw their shares rise. The property sector was 47th out of the 52 FT sectors, the telecommunications sector topping the list.
None of the seven majors sparkled. Capital Shopping Centres fared best, with its shares only dropping 18%. The worst performer was British Land, which fell 34%, thus disappearing from the important FTSE100 Index of the UK’s 100 largest companies. Other majors, however, such as MEPC, British Land and Hammerson, had sharp falls in December when liquidity was relatively low.
The worst-performing shares were generally in sectors that the City believes face tough times – the City of London, secondary retail, London residential and trading.
Hemingway, where chief executive Michael Goldhill and finance director Andrew Brown earned £1.84m each in 1997, brought up the rear.