UK REIT Hammerson has sold a 50% stake in the Highcross shopping centre in Leicester to an unnamed Asian investor for £236m (€268.5m).

The British owner of Birmingham’s Bullring shopping complex - which seeks to reduce reliance on department stores and enhance the retail mix - said the sale of the stake in the 110,000sqm centre creates a new £472m joint venture with the Asian investor introduced by M&G Real Estate.

Hammerson will manage the centre for the new joint venture.

As at 30 June, Highcross’ occupancy was 96.7% with an annual passing rent of £26.7m.

Hammerson, which owns and manages flagship retail destinations and Premium Outlets, recently increased its disposal target for 2018 to £600m as part of its reshaped strategy.

The latest transaction takes the company’s total disposals in 2018 to over £530m, including the sale of four retail parks earlier this year in line with its plans to exit the retail park sector over the medium term, it said.

David Atkins, the chief executive of Hammerson, commented: “We have now achieved close to 90% of our increased 2018 disposal target of £600m. This latest transaction is at a price that underpins the underlying strengths of our flagship destinations.

“It is clear there are institutional investors that continue to have the appetite to buy into top-tier centres and see value in creating joint ventures with skilled operators.”

John Duxbury, the head of retail and leisure at M&G Real Estate said: “This is a significant investment into a high quality, strategically located, well-let regional asset, which provides a great place for people to shop, dine out and be entertained.

“The retail sector has its challenges, but prime assets in the right locations will be resilient to the changing retail landscape and continue to deliver attractive risk-adjusted returns for our investors. With a strong line up of retail and leisure brands, we are confident that Highcross has an exciting future.”

The completion of the transaction is expected to take place later in the year subject to EU competition clearance and joint venture finance.