Commercial Property Tax Relief is Not Being Exploited

 

Around nine in 10 commercial properties are sitting on unused capital allowances tax relief.

And because this tax relief can be backdated until the year the property was purchased, there are billions of pounds of tax rebate languishing in commercial property stock.

MortgageStrategy.co.uk reports:

We have discovered unused capital allowances for thousands of commercial property owners, with the average claim in the region of £140,000.

The biggest claim has been just over £10m, which gives you an idea of what’s up for grabs.

So what are capital allowances? They’re a form of tax relief available to anyone incurring capital expenditure buying, building or making adjustments to commercial property.

Examples of properties on which capital allowances can be claimed include factories and industrial units, leisure facilities, warehouses and depots, haulage yards, offices, retail stores, care homes and hotels.

So why is so little known about capital allowances?

First, HM Revenue and Customs, understandably, isn’t keen to sing this opportunity from the rooftops.

Secondly, identifying capital allowances within commercial properties is complex, so much so that even accountants only scratch the surface.

While accountants will claim on more obvious items such as shutters and curtains, fire extinguishers and carpets, generally they will not drill down to the items where the far more significant costs to a business lie.

These might include air conditioning or heating systems, lighting and security systems, plant and machinery items.

A specialist capital allowances firm, by contrast, will have a different skill set and a more detailed understanding of capital allowances law and practice than most accountants, and be able to uncover more valuable capital allowances.

For example, last year we took on a company that had purchased in 2008 a ground floor retail outlet and three-storey office block in Southport for £2m.

Having first established the property’s capital allowance history we carried out a detailed forensic survey.

We identified £498,954 of unclaimed capital allowances, which arose out of the structural constituents of the building, including heating and ventilation systems, gas, electrical and security installations.

After tax at 21%, the gross benefit for the client was £104,780, while the net benefit was £80,614.

There are two opportunities here for brokers – if they own premises they can look for unused capital allowances themselves while at the same time reach out to their client base.

Source: Mortgage Strategy

450 Businesses in Northern Ireland Benefit from Rates Relief

The so called “Tesco Tax” could fund small business rate relief for an additional 458 businesses in the borough of Coleraine, according to East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell.

That will bring to 1,364 the total number of businesses in Coleraine, Portrush, Portstewart, Castlerock, Garvagh and Kilrea that will enjoy up to 50% discount on their bills from April this year if MLAs gives the scheme the green light.

The DUP MP and MLA, pictured right, made the startling revelation to journalists at the weekend after Finance Minister Sammy Wilson disclosed the information in response to an official Assembly question.

The Rate Relief Scheme was first introduced here on April 1st, 2010, but could make a second return to the statute books this year in a new beefed-up and expanded reincarnation which will run for three years.

Amounting to some £6.3M in its first outing, the reformed scheme is expected to cost double that this time around but will be paid for through a 15% Large Retail Levy on giant supermarkets and High Street chain stores whose profits don’t go back into the immediate local economy.

Although the decision has yet to be ratified by full Assembly, news of the additional funding for Coleraine businesses received a warm welcome from Mr. Campbell who was delighted to know that Limavady, another town in his constituency, would also benefit albeit at a figure nearly half that of Coleraine.

After receiving the data from the Finance and Personnel Minister, Mr. Campbell explained that eligible businesses were recorded by district council level as well as ward level with town centres showing greatest demand.

“In Coleraine town it is Central Ward (currently 196 but expected to rise to 248). In Limavady it is Roeside Ward (108 rising to 181). Wards where industrial estates are located have also a high number of properties – Dundooan in Coleraine (81 rising to 112) and Aghanloo in Limavady (56 rising to 82),” he said.

“This is good news for a number of smaller outlets, particularly in the current economic climate. Over the next couple of years the recovery needs to begin so the ‘cushion effect’ this provides may help stimulate growth in the small business sector.”

Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister and fellow DUP MLA Arlene Foster also commented on the proposed increase to the rate relief scheme.

“It is good to see that the Finance Minister has decided to expand the small business rate relief scheme, because that will make a real difference to a lot of small businesses across Northern Ireland. The 20% relief for those with a net asset value of £5,000 to £10,000 would give an average award of £730 at 2011-12 levels. The idea is that the hearts of villages, small towns and bigger towns will be kept alive during what has been a very difficult period for them.

“Having looked at the situation in the round and at how larger businesses have been much more resilient than some of our small businesses, which live from month to month in relation to their cash flow, I believe that it is a substantial help for those small businesses and will be at minimal cost to those larger businesses that will be asked to pay the levy,” she concluded.

Eligibility for the scheme will be based on the net annual value (NAV) of each business property. Those with an NAV of less than £2,000 will receive a 50% reduction, between £2,000 and £5,000 a 25% reduction and business with an NAV of between £5,000 and £10,000 will receive a 20% discount on their bills.

There is no application procedure for the Small Business Rate Relief. Instead, relief will be applied automatically by Land & Property Services to all businesses that qualify. If you think that you should have been awarded the relief, or you believe you have been awarded it in error, please contact Land & Property Services via telephone on 0300 200 7801 (local rate) or via email to applicationbased.raterelief@dfpni.gov.uk

Scottish Commercial Property Deals Plunge

The value of commercial property deals in Scotland plunged more than 25 per cent last year as the ravages of the economic crisis continue to take their toll on both confidence and lending, new figures today will show.

Data published by the Scottish Property Federation revealed that only £1.9 billion worth of deals occurred in 2011, down 25.5 per cent by value, as the number of transactions fell by 9.5 per cent compared with 2010. This was despite a late rally in the last quarter of the year, headed by property deals in a buoyant Aberdeen.

The strong performance in Q4 of 2011 clawed back some of the lost ground, with notable deals including the LaSalle Investment Management’s purchase from BAM Properties of 20-26 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, for a reported £37 million and NewRiver Retail picking up Paisley Shopping Centre for £20m.

But Chris Dougray, head of Lambert Smith Hampton in Scotland, gloomily dismissed the last quarter’s upturn as a pre-Christmas “blip” that has not continued into the new year, as he warned that any uptick in activity in 2012 would likely be driven by banks selling debt portfolios and falling prices.

“The drop in the volume of sales is no surprise, and we should view the fourth quarter as a blip rather a signal of a general upturn in activity,” said Dougray.

“Outwith prime and secure long lease deals we anticipate a paucity of meaningful transactions in 2012. The market is, however, poised for a very significant upturn in activity – but through loan sales.

“Many lenders have flagged to the market that this will be how they seek to deleverage – we witnessed several transactions of this type in the latter half of last year. As the new loan owners work through arrangements with existing borrowers it would seem likely that assets sales will follow but on a re-priced, lower value basis.”

The collapse in sales comes as figures from the Bank of England showed lending to real estate deals across the UK fell for a seventh quarter to £183bn; an 18 per cent decrease on levels seen a year ago.

Alasdair Humphery, head of Jones Lang LaSalle in Scotland, said: “Concern exists in Scotland from the limited capacity shown by the traditional lenders and, while we see new entrants to the market, their activity has not filled the void. It is increasingly apparent that the system is not functioning properly at the moment.”

David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, said: “Lack of demand for commercial property increases office and shop vacancies and it does suggest low confidence in the economy if businesses are not expanding or relocating their business premises in Scotland.

“We call on Holyrood to pull back from damaging plans to reduce empty property rate relief and to introduce a planned public health business rates levy on supermarkets.”

Source: Scotsman

CKW Warns of Underinsured Business Property

A growing number of property owners are under insuring their buildings, according to analysis by Cadogan Keelan Westall.

The property broker found although commercial property insurance premiums are stable, the amount most property owners need to insure is on the increase, as commercial property values and rebuild costs rise.

Property owners are at risk of incurring huge costs in the event of a rebuild if they are under-insured, as their insurance may not cover the rebuilding cost, demolition and site clearance, together with the related professional fees in the rebuilding process.

Research shows a rise in under-insured properties, as owners fail to update and review declared values on a regular basis.

Jonathan Hackett, client development director at Cadogan Keelan Westall explained: “We are seeing a growth in under-insurance as the recession continues to bite, because many property owners are failing to have regular valuations.

“A recent case highlights the growing problem of under-insurance that we are seeing. A property owner had to make a claim on a listed block of flats following fire damage and it was found that whilst the value at risk was £215 495, the value declared for the policy term was £142 000. This represents an under insurance figure of 65%.

“Under-insurance is one of the biggest factors to claim settlements being reduced.”

Source: Post Online

IDP Reports UK Commercial Property Prices have Dropped

U.K. commercial real estate prices fell for the third consecutive month in January as a slowing economy hurt demand for all types of property.

The average value of stores, offices and warehouses declined 0.2 percent in January from a year earlier, Investment Property Databank Ltd. said today in a statement on its website. Warehouse-type properties led the decline, falling 0.3 percent, the London-based research company said.

“It’s no surprise that demand from tenants remains lackluster across all sectors. The recent quantitative easing announcement by the Bank of England shows just how hard the authorities are trying to increase spending,” Phil Tily, managing director for the U.K. and Ireland, said in the statement.

The Bank of England plans to pump another 50 billion pounds ($78 million) into the U.K. economy as it tries to prevent a slide back into recession. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said on Jan. 25 that Britain had “substantial economic problems” and dealing with them has become more difficult because of the sovereign debt crisis affecting countries that share the euro currency.

Rents in the City of London financial district fell 0.1 percent last month as buyers showed “anxiety” about the prospects for rental growth in the short term, IPD said. That’s causing investors to question the asking prices for real estate there, according to Tily.

Values in the area, known as the Square Mile, fell in December ahead of the January rent decline, IPD said. U.K. financial services firms eliminated 58,000 jobs in 2011, more than any other country in the world, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

U.K. commercial real estate prices fell 0.1 percent in December and 0.02 percent in November after gaining 17.8 percent in the previous 27 months of continuous growth. Prices dropped 44.2 percent from their July 2007 peak to their low point in July 2009, according to IPD. Values may fall by 5.9 percent this year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in a Jan. 13 note to investors.

Total return, which combines the change in property values and rental income, was 7.8 percent in the 12 months to November, IPD said. The index was compiled from appraisals of 3,628 properties valued at 33.9 billion pounds at the end of January, IPD said.

Source: Business Week

Charities Benefit from Business Rate Relief

The practice of charities occupying empty premises so landlords can benefit from business rate relief has come under scrutiny from the sector, councils and lawyers. David Ainsworth reports

When the government changed the law in 2008 so that landlords would have to pay business rates on empty properties, it didn’t take long for charities and landlords to spot a potential advantage.

Charities pay only 20 per cent of the business rates on property they occupy for charitable purposes, so if a landlord allows a charity to occupy his property, his rates bill is cut drastically, even if no rent is being charged.

Immediately, charities began offering to occupy unused property, setting up ‘pop-up’ shops and hosting exhibitions and drop-in centres. The practice was promoted by the Labour government, which helped develop ‘meanwhile leases’ and funded a community interest company to promote them. A report published in early 2010 estimated that 250 charity projects of this kind were going on.

Since then, companies involved in the market estimate this number has grown by 50 per cent as the number of empty properties continues to rise. And as the practice has expanded, it has developed features that some see as questionable. TheCharity Commission has launched an investigation into more than 700 charitable occupancies, saying it is primarily concerned that some charities are being exploited by commercial landlords.

Solicited donations

One development is that some charities have solicited donations from landlords, which could be seen as payment, in return for occupying property. Other charities, councils and lawyers have complained that charities are, in effect, selling their tax benefits to the highest bidder, even though in many cases very little charitable activity takes place on the premises.

The most common complaints focus on charities that say they are occupying a property but do no more than put up posters, use the space for storage or install a single transmitter that sends Bluetooth messages to passers-by. In other cases, councils have complained of leases being transferred to charities that use them for only a few days a year, then transfer the property back to commercial use.

Paul Russell, a self-employed solicitor who specialises in ratings law, says he receives about one complaint a fortnight. “I receive cases from the Institute of Revenues, Ratings and Valuation, and this crops up relatively often,” he says. “The most common complaints are about posters and electronics.”

Emily Berwyn, of Meanwhile Space, the CIC that fosters ‘meanwhile leases’, which last up to six months, says she has also heard of charities occupying a property and not using it. “Councils know this is going on, and are suspicious,” she says. “It makes it much more difficult for us to claim rate relief.”

Charitable purposes

It is not clear whether charities are legitimately entitled to claim relief if they use only a very small part of a property. The law says that a charity is entitled to rate relief if its occupation of a property is “wholly or mainly” for charitable purposes. Russell says a charity cannot be considered to “wholly or mainly” occupy a premises unless it is using at least half of it – a rule applied to charity shops.

But Jenny Wigley of No5 Chambers, a barrister specialising in ratings law, says she has successfully argued on behalf of charities that, as long as all of the part of a property a charity occupies is used for a charitable purpose, the actual occupation can be quite small. “This situation needs case law,” she says. “At the moment there haven’t been the cases to make it clear what the law might be.”

It is possible, Wigley says, that testing the situation in court might produce a de minimis test – a minimum threshold of occupation that charities must pass before they are entitled to rate relief. She says an ongoing case involving another relief scheme, where businesses avoid rates by transferring unwanted stock from one property to another, might set a test that is applicable to charities.

The Communities and Local Government department, which is responsible for business rates, is concerned about the potential use of charitable tax reliefs as part of tax-avoidance schemes, and has urged councils to be vigilant. But councils, which are responsible for checking whether a charity is entitled to relief, have no direct financial incentive to investigate because rates are pooled and redistributed by CLG rather than going directly into council coffers.

Challenging charites’ rights

In July last year, the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, launched a consultation into proposals to allow councils to keep “a significant proportion” of the business rates raised locally. If this became law, councils would be more likely to challenge the right of charities to rate relief.

Lawrence Simanowitz, a partner at the law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite, says that if charities are able to claim tax relief for minimal use of a property and then use that tax break to obtain money from commercial firms, the law may well be in need of reform.

“There’s not much point in a law that you can drive a coach and horses through,” he says.

If there is reform, says Russell, the self-employed solicitor, charities must make sure that the law does not hamper their everyday activities. “CLG is currently very stretched,” he says. “I don’t think this is near the top of its agenda, though it might move up it if councils get to keep a chunk of their rates. When it does get to it, there is the potential for it to introduce changes that would make life much more difficult for genuine charities. That’s not the result we want to see.”

Scottish Commercial Property Deals Plunge

The value of commercial property deals in Scotland plunged more than 25 per cent last year as the ravages of the economic crisis continue to take their toll on both confidence and lending, new figures today will show.

Data published by the Scottish Property Federation revealed that only £1.9 billion worth of deals occurred in 2011, down 25.5 per cent by value, as the number of transactions fell by 9.5 per cent compared with 2010. This was despite a late rally in the last quarter of the year, headed by property deals in a buoyant Aberdeen.

The strong performance in Q4 of 2011 clawed back some of the lost ground, with notable deals including the LaSalle Investment Management’s purchase from BAM Properties of 20-26 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, for a reported £37 million and NewRiver Retail picking up Paisley Shopping Centre for £20m.

But Chris Dougray, head of Lambert Smith Hampton in Scotland, gloomily dismissed the last quarter’s upturn as a pre-Christmas “blip” that has not continued into the new year, as he warned that any uptick in activity in 2012 would likely be driven by banks selling debt portfolios and falling prices.

“The drop in the volume of sales is no surprise, and we should view the fourth quarter as a blip rather a signal of a general upturn in activity,” said Dougray.

“Outwith prime and secure long lease deals we anticipate a paucity of meaningful transactions in 2012. The market is, however, poised for a very significant upturn in activity – but through loan sales.

“Many lenders have flagged to the market that this will be how they seek to deleverage – we witnessed several transactions of this type in the latter half of last year. As the new loan owners work through arrangements with existing borrowers it would seem likely that assets sales will follow but on a re-priced, lower value basis.”

The collapse in sales comes as figures from the Bank of England showed lending to real estate deals across the UK fell for a seventh quarter to £183bn; an 18 per cent decrease on levels seen a year ago.

Alasdair Humphery, head of Jones Lang LaSalle in Scotland, said: “Concern exists in Scotland from the limited capacity shown by the traditional lenders and, while we see new entrants to the market, their activity has not filled the void. It is increasingly apparent that the system is not functioning properly at the moment.”

David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, said: “Lack of demand for commercial property increases office and shop vacancies and it does suggest low confidence in the economy if businesses are not expanding or relocating their business premises in Scotland.

“We call on Holyrood to pull back from damaging plans to reduce empty property rate relief and to introduce a planned public health business rates levy on supermarkets.”

Source: Scotsman

Businesses Exploit Rates Loophole

Businesses with empty premises are exploiting a tax break intended for charities to avoid paying full rates, a BBC investigation has found.

High Streets across the UK have their fair share of empty stores and boarded-up properties – some industry experts estimate one in ten units currently stand empty.

Empty or not, the owners or tenants of these properties still have to pay business rates, the same way households pay council tax.

And in these economically hard times, some sections of Britain’s business community have been working hard to find ways of not paying the full whack.

Win-win situation

Charities not making full use of properties may be charged full rates

Landlords are keen to bring in charities to take over empty properties, as they present a means of cutting the amount they themselves pay in business rates.

Business rates are paid by the occupier of a property, but charities only pay 20% of what regular businesses pay.

So, to entice charities to use empty premises, landlords are offering to pay rates on a charity’s behalf – reducing their own rates bill by 80%.

Some landlords are so keen to get charities in as tenants, they even throw in a donation.

“They give us the space rent-free, and on average they give us half of what they would have paid in business rates,” explains Mr Patel.

“Out of that we’re able to pay for our rates bill, and the on-going cost of volunteers… and that’s how we can fund our activity”.

It used to be the case that if a commercial premises became empty the owner was entitled to a rates holiday – they did not have to pay anything for three months, and after that only had to pay 50% of the rates, as long as the property stayed empty.

However, in 2008 the Labour government scrapped the 50% discount for empty shops and a lot of businesses were suddenly hit with a higher tax bill – although discounts remain for businesses in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Today, landlords still get a three month rates holiday once a property becomes empty, but after that they are liable to pay full business rates which can run into several thousand pounds, hence the motivation to do deals with charities.

Tax avoidance

“This does seem like it’s just a way to avoid paying business rates,” says Dan Thompson, of the Empty Shops Network.

“I want to see far more creative and entrepreneurial use in these shops, and allow new businesses to get space… which is far more important.”

“There are plenty of alternatives – they could put businesses in there and say ‘we won’t charge you rent, but you pay the rates’.

Concerns have also been raised questioning whether some of the properties occupied by charities are really servicing any substantial charitable service.

5 Live has discovered that all some charity tenants are doing to qualify for a rates discount is hang posters in the window.

Others operate on an erratic basis – including Healthy Planet, whose Kentish Town store in London is only open in the afternoon on weekdays, from ‘midday-ish’ on a Saturday, and every other Sunday.

Shaylesh Patel from Healthy Planet says the Kentish Town shop has irregular opening hours because it depends on volunteer staff.

However, Camden Council, which is responsible for collecting rates due on the property, has not granted Healthy Planet any discount on its rates.

Last year Sheffield City Council made a similar decision as it says Healthy Planet was not making full use of the building it occupied.

“These are just two councils out of over 100 that we have been dealing with,” says Mr Patel.

“Other councils have given us grants to refurbish our shop fronts, because they want us to be there.”

Regulator investigates

The Charity Commission for England and Wales says it has received a number of queries from local authorities concerned about situations where charities are entering into tenancy agreements on commercial property but where in practice the property is, or appears to be, empty.

The regulator has said it is concerned that charities may find themselves involved in what local authorities might consider to be business rates avoidance by landlords.

It is also concerned that more charities may end up in a similar position to Healthy Planet and be ordered to pay the full rate of business rates if local councils are not satisfied with the nature of the lease agreement.

The Charity Commission is currently investigating three charities – Healthy Planet is not one of them – one of which has over 700 leasing agreements.

“None of this activity would have been necessary if the government had not brought in the changes in 2008,” says Jerry Schurder, head of rating with the property consultants Gerald Eve.

The Charity Commission has warned charities against helping landlords avoid empty property rates

Mr Schurder is one of many critics from the business community who believes that forcing landlords to pay full rates on empty properties is unfair.

“Empty property rates is a tax on failure, where businesses have failed, the government wants to rake in some additional revenue.

“The last 50 years are riddled with examples of governments trying to increase revenue by charging empty property rates and they have all been reversed. They haven’t lasted at all.”

In a statement, Local Government Minister Bob Neill said: “We have doubled small business rate relief helping half a million small firms, and made it easier for small shops and firms to claim tax relief, and given councils new powers to cut business rates for local firms.”

However, broader cuts to business rates are unlikely to come anytime soon – especially when cash-strapped local councils are due to profit further from business rates in the near future.

“At the moment business rates are collected centrally but in 2013 the money will go to local authorities,” explains Bryan Lodge, deputy leader of Sheffield City Council.

Sheffield is one of the councils taking a hard line against businesses it believes are exploiting loopholes to avoid paying rates.

“There was a case involving a company moving boxes of files from property to property, which would be moved after six weeks,” says Mr Lodge.

Storing boxes of files enabled the company to declare their property occupied. After six weeks the boxes were removed, leaving the property vacant, and the landlord could claim for another rates holiday.

This is a common ruse, with landlords leasing for short periods of time in order to get three months of rates relief.

However in this particular case the company was set to save even more, as it was using the empty properties for storage.

“If the space is adapted for storage use, then companies can get a six month tax-free period,” says Sheffield councillor, Mr Lodge.

“There are opportunities for rate relief, but this appeared to be overstepping the mark.”

“We’re standing up for the people to make sure rates that are due are paid to the city, and avoid these schemes to get around it.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it fully appreciates the problems caused by the previous government’s reforms and will keep the matter under review.

Source: BBC News

New Retail Development for Lancashire

A huge new retail park is set to bring 230 new jobs and big name retailers to the heart of Lancashire’s motorway network.

Developer Roundhouse Properties has unveiled plans to build units on a plot the size of the pitch at Wembley Stadium at Bamber Bridge which it claims will be the only new retail park built in the North West this year.

A spokesman said the firm was close to signing up a major national retailer.

Lawrence Earnshaw, director of out-of-town retail at property experts CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) which is selling the scheme, said it was also locked in talks with other retailers about taking units on the site.

He said: “We are in the process of finalising a prominent national retailer for the scheme and have received strong interest from several other leading retailers.

“This is an exciting opportunity to build a new retail development that will create jobs and provide a welcome boost to the local area.

“CBRE has been delighted to advise during this process and we look forward to working with Roundhouse Properties closely to ensure that the right retailers are introduced to the scheme.”

Roundhouse has confirmed it expects to sign up retailers, which are expected to be large electrical and furniture firms, in time to get work started on site by the summer.

It will see buildings on the four-acre industrial site off Cuerden Way demolished and replaced with a number of huge units.

Nick Kos, of Preston-based property agents Bailey, Deakin and Hamilton who acquired the site for Roundhouse, said it had already started talking with potential tenants.

He said: “This is fantastic news and we can now look to present the retail development to interested parties.

“The location is a very popular area for businesses and with the expansion of Sainsbury’s, this proposed development will add to the retail and leisure offer.”

Cliff Hughes, the council’s cabinet member for planning, said the latest jobs boost had left the borough “buzzing.”

It will see more than 200 new jobs created at the new Waitrose store at Walton-le-Dale which opens on Thursday and the supermarket giant is due to open at huge new regional distribution centre at Buckshaw Village, near Leyland in early 2013.

Coun Hughes said: “We have been waiting for someone to talk an interest in this part of the borough for some time because it is at the heart of all our motorways.

“The Sainsbury’s has just expanded down there, we have two new office parks and that is on top of the Matalan, Aldi and B&Q which are thriving at the moment.”

Roundhouse, the group owned by the Lefton family of Cumbria, is behind the development of the South Preston Office Village alongside Sainsbury’s and recently opened the first half of a new office village at South Rings of the A6 Lostock Lane.

It has planning permission to develop further office and industrial units on the South Ring site.

Source: LEP

Hampshire Businesses Support Positive Property Outlook

The financial sector came out in force in Winchester last week to debate the future of the property market.

Property advisors Christie & Co invited financial businesses from around Hampshire to an annual networking event examining the market for 2012.

The company launched their 2012 Business Outlook, revealing property prices had fallen across the board last year by around 2.5 per cent.

The average price movements across the sectors saw a 1.1 per cent decline in the pubs sector, 3.3 per cent in care, 3.6 per cent in convenience retail, 4.1 per cent in restaurants and 5.1 per cent in hotels.

But in spite of the decrease, Christie & Co said there were reasons to be optimistic, particularly because the number of transactions between businesses is still high.

Ed Belfield, director and location manager for Christie’s Winchester branch, said: “One of the positive signs of 2011 was maintaining the level of market activity in terms of transactions and owner/operators looking to sell. The number of people looking to sell is really quite positive.

“The market will remain cautious but transactions should remain steady.”

Of this year’s event at Winchester Cathedral Café, Mr Belfield said: “It’s gone very well and we have had our highest turnout ever. I think that’s symptomatic of the amount of professionals out there looking to gleam more market knowledge.”

Source: Romsey Advertiser