Property giant Hammerson - one of three partners behind Birmingham's hugely successful Bullring shopping centre - yesterday shrugged off the depression hanging over the UK retail sector with strong first half results.
The company, which also owns major stakes in shopping centres, said that despite the slowdown in consumer confidence, its retail assets were continuing to attract good levels of demand from tenants.
Hammerson is part of the Birmingham Alliance, the partnership behind Bullring and Martineau Place shopping centres. Henderson Global Investors and Land Securities are the other companies involved.
Chief executive John Richards said: "There are some uncertainties in retail trends in the UK but I have to say that Hammerson properties are well positioned in the best sectors of the market - dominant regional shopping centres and high-quality retail parks."
Mr Richards said Bullring had performed particularly well - in fact "outperforming the general trend in UK retailing" and continuing to attract tourist shoppers as well as regular customers.
Hammerson posted a 21.6 per cent rise in half-year pretax profits to £247.3 million, while its property portfolio was valued at £4.8 billion at the end of June, with retail accounting for 71 per cent of the estate.
Profits were boosted by a £31.5 million gain on property sales, which included the sale of a property on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. In total, the group raised £217 million from disposals.
Looking ahead, the property specialist said demand for office space in London and Paris was "encouraging". It also has significant new projects coming on stream, including the former Stock Exchange building in the City of London.
Outgoing chairman Ronald Spinney said: "I believe Hammerson is well placed to achieve good income growth from its reversionary retail portfolio, notwithstanding some uncertainties over trends in consumer expenditure in the UK.
"In addition, there is an encouraging improvement in demand for office accommodation, both in central London and Paris, and this should enable the group to achieve further lettings in its office portfolio."
Mr Spinney is standing down from the board at the end of September having spent 12 years with the company. He will be succeeded as chairman by non-executive director John Reynolds from October 1.
As well as working with councils to advance schemes in Kingston- upon- Thames, Leeds, Peterborough and Sheffield, Hammerson said it believed there were opportunities to "extend and enhance" a number of its existing shopping centres, including Bernt Cross in north London, West-Quay in Southampton and The Oracle in Reading.
Hammerson also forecast growth in office rents next year, when it expects to benefit from a low level of new supply, particularly in the City of London, and further falls in vacancy rates during the remainder of this year.
The company is also confident that office lettings will improve from their recent below-par performance.
Earnings per share fell 23.6 per cent, from 94.5p to 72.2p.
However, the interim dividend payment rises 6.4 per cent, from 5.45p to 5.8p per share.
Shares closed up 8p at 887p.