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Daily Mail and General Trust has agreed to sell the site of its London printworks to British Land – the third such deal in as many months as developers look to cash in on demand for property in the capital.
British Land, which declined to disclose the price it paid, plans to add the Harmsworth Quays site in south-east London to its development projects in the area, which include Surrey Quays shopping centre. Analysts suggested the company paid £12m-£14m.
The move follows recent deals by News International and Northern & Shell – the parent company of the Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers – to convert their former printing premises into commercial and residential property schemes. The three sites are identical in size at 15 acres.
Lucinda Bell, finance director at British Land, said: “The opportunities to convert old industrial space into residential or retail property are good at the moment. It is a natural part of the evolution and economic success story of London.”
The timing of the deal also reflects the demand by property companies to develop in London.
The market for office space and houses in the city has performed well in the past 18 months, with strong interest from overseas buyers helping to mitigate the impact of the national downturn.
The focus on opportunities to develop along the River Thames has been particularly strong recently, with the printwork sites and Battersea Power Station, the 38-acre riverside site in south-west London, all trading this year.
News International’s site at Wapping, east London – more sought after than DMGT’s site – attracted widespread interest from bidders and was bought last month by Tony Pidgley’s Berkeley Group for £150m.
Developers had also hoped to buy the Northern & Shell printworks on the nearby Isle of Dogs but Richard Desmond, the company’s owner, decided to build the project himself.
British Land will take possession of the Harmsworth Quays site in late 2013 following the relocation of DMGT’s London printing operations to Thurrock, Essex.
The property company, the second largest in the UK by market value, is expected to convert the land into retail space and houses.
In January, it announced plans to spend £34m refurbishing and extending its shopping centre. David Dutton, DMGT head of property, said the site had “been a really good location for our printing works” and added it was “changes in technology that have led to the relocation out of the area”.
The migration of readers to the internet has changed the economics of the newspaper industry, while more efficient forms of printing have replaced industrial-style plants and costly presses.