Car park operator NCP seeks rent cuts to survive

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The UK's largest car park operator NCP has started a court process to help it cut rents and exit contracts for unprofitable parking facilities.

NCP says it has been "deeply impacted" by the Covid pandemic, which has seen revenues drop by 80%.

Its Japanese owner Park24 has told the firm that it will withdraw funding if NCP's restructuring is unsuccessful.

NCP said the court process was a "last resort" to safeguard the future of its business and 1,000 staff.

The firm said it had tried to agree deals with the landlords to reduce its rent burden on the 500 sites it operates. A withdrawal of funding from its owner could cause NCP to become insolvent.

"NCP has been deeply impacted since last year due to the pandemic - sales during the full lockdowns have typically been about 80% below normal levels; outside lockdown they have not grown beyond about 50% for any length of time," the firm said.

It added that the pandemic had "rapidly accelerated the pace of societal change", citing a combination of increased flexible working, traffic control measures and the rapid growth of online shopping as the reasons why fewer people were visiting cities and town centres.

"This is not a short-term problem ‒ many high streets and train stations are unlikely to ever recover their pre-pandemic footfall," NCP said.

The British Retail Consortium estimates that non-essential retail stores lost around £22bn in sales in 2020 due to lockdown measures, as footfall declined by 40%.

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However, after lockdown restrictions on non-essential shops lifted on 12 April, footfall across all UK shopping destinations was up 87.8% week-on-week, according to analyst Springboard, as consumers decided to treat themselves, after months of being unable to go shopping.

NCP said that it had tried to make deals with its landlords to reduce its rent burden, but "sufficient agreements" to make the business viable had "not been forthcoming".

The court process is different from a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), in that landlords can be compelled to accept changes in contracts, even if they do not agree, following new insolvency legislation introduced in June.

NCP estimates that 85% of its landlords support its restructuring proposal.

"Park24, NCP's major shareholder, remains supportive of its restructuring plan, but given the UK operation's ongoing losses, has stated that it will only continue funding the business if the restructuring plan is successful," the firm said.

"NCP remains committed to working constructively with its landlords and all of its creditors and delivering a long-term mutually beneficial outcome for them through this restructuring plan."

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