Trident Estates plc, a property investment company that owns and manages property for rental and investment purposes, recently con­vened its 20th annual general meeting remotely due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The group’s current primary focus is the completion of Trident Park, which is transforming the old Farsons Brewery along Mdina Road into a modern office complex, spread over 13 tumoli of land, following best practice in terms of environmentally-sustain­able design and aiming for BREEAM* (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment) excellence certification.

Addressing shareholders, Trident Group chairman Louis A. Farrugia reported that group turnover grew by seven per cent to €1,152,000 over the previous comparative period while operating profit rose 68 per cent from €288,000 to €484,000. The group posted net profit of €74,000 for the financial year ending January 31, 2020, compared to €775,000 for the previous financial year. No fair value gains on investment property were recorded during the financial year under review compared to €803,000 last year.

Referring to the interim financial results, Farrugia said the re­venue between February and July 2020 fell marginally to €562,000 from €575,000 the previous year. This reduction is not fully representative of discounts afforded to current tenants of Trident pro­perties as these are now being spread over the respective lease period. The pre-tax profit was €117,000 (2019: €135,000). The tax expense disproportionately amounted to €122,000 (2019: €123,000), resulting in a marginal loss of €5,000 (2019: €12,000).

Trident Group CEO Charles Xuereb said that the group had recently concluded negotiations with various tenants and operators of amenities. As announced at the end of July 2020, Trident Park was selected as the preferred bidder to house the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU). The total area committed for office use so far stands at 4,462 m2 out of an available total upon completion of 15,745 m2. The opera­tors for the gym, wellness areas, restaurant and childcare centre have also been selected.

Take-up of space will be slower than projected

So far, the Trident Park project has been financed by funds raised in the rights issue of 2019. It is anticipated that drawdowns from the loan facility will start this year.

Farrugia informed shareholders that, provided there is no further deterioration of the current situation insofar as the availability of labour, raw material and equipment delivery dates as a result of COVID-19, it is envisaged that Trident Park will welcome its first tenants by June 2021.

He said that, as noted in Trident Estates’ 2019-20 annual report, once completed, the financial outcome of the development will depend on two main factors: the rate at which the property achieves occupancy, and the rental rates and related charges negotiated.

The current expectation continues to be that the take-up of space will be at a slower pace than that originally projected, and that rental rates will be faced with downward pressure. However, the extent to which this expectation comes to fruition is highly dependent on the timing and outcome of the eventual post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

In the coming months, the group will be launching a comprehensive marketing campaign for the project in its endeavour to continue attracting high-quality tenants. In this regard, the management is presently in discussions with certain prospective tenants.

Trident’s management and the board will continue to examine the various possible outcomes, taking into account any changes in circumstances, and will keep the situation under constant review. The board believes that the excellent environmental credentials and unique proposition of the project bodes well for the eventual success of Trident Park.

The interest in the quality and uniqueness of the project from prospective tenants, as well as the recently signed on tenants and other stakeholders, gives further encouragement to the decision taken by the board last year to press forward with the expeditious completion of the project.

Shareholders were informed that in the current scenario and also in the long-term interest of the business, the board decided that it would not be appropriate to declare any dividends at this stage. The situation will be kept under careful review and shareholders were reassured that dividend distributions will be resumed immediately it is deemed prudent to do so.

Trident’s shareholders also approved a new memorandum and articles of association for the company. Among others, this provides for participation at such general meetings by electronic means, while now the company is no longer required to circulate printed copies of the annual accounts once these have been made available on its website and the shareholders have been informed accordingly.

The meeting approved the income statement and statement of financial position for the year ended January 31, 2020, and the reports of the directors and the auditors thereon, and the reappointment of auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The shareholders authorised the company to use electronic means to circulate certain information as permitted by law to its shareholders. The board of directors was reconfirmed.

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