Hammerson plans to sell £1.1bn (€1.2bn) worth of retail park assets by the end of next year to focus on flagship retail destinations and premium outlets.

Following a strategic review, the British owner of Birmingham’s Bullring shopping complex said it has decided to sell its retail park assets to boost future shareholder value and returns.

Hammerson has so far sold £300m of the properties and expects to sell the same amount by the end of the year. A further £500m of disposals is also expected to occur in 2019, the company said.

As part of the strategy, Peter Cole will retire as chief investment officer following the 2019 annual general meeting in April next year and the executive directors on the board will be cut from four to two.

In line with the disposal plan, Hammerson said it will return up to £300m to shareholders via a share buyback over the next 12 months.

The optimised portfolio will have greater pan-European diversity with non-UK retail exposure increasing by 10%, Hammerson said.

Hammerson said due to increased market risks and while alternative uses of capital offer higher immediate financial returns, it will defer starting on site with its development at Brent Cross in London. 

“The scheme remains an important strategic project and we continue to recognise its role as one of London’s leading retail destinations and will support its future success.”

David Atkins, the CEO of Hammerson, said: “Our reshaped strategy sees us taking decisive action to further reposition our portfolio. Through increasing the level of disposals, including exiting the retail parks sector, we will now focus solely on winning destinations of the highest quality: Flagship retail destinations and Premium Outlets. These are the venues we believe will maintain relevance and outperform against the shifting retail backdrop.

“Our customer and retailer offer will be amplified, and this includes a step change in our retailer line up. We will reduce the amount of floor space let to department stores and high street fashion as we actively focus on the latest consumer trends and take bolder steps to provide the best retail mix.”

In April this year, London-listed Hammerson blamed a tough UK retail property market for withdrawing its support to merge with its rival Intu Properties. During the same period, French shopping centre owner Klépierre pulled out of making a formal bid for Hammerson, despite sweetening its offer a few days earlier.