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UK's Landsec names Cheshire as next chair

By Aby Jose Koilparambil

(Reuters) -Britain's Land Securities on Friday appointed retailing industry veteran and Channel 4 chair Ian Cheshire as its next chairman, as the commercial landlord streamlines its retail assets in the midst of tough property-market conditions.

Cheshire, a former chief of retailer Kingfisher and ex-chairman of department store group Debenhams, takes over as Landsec chairman at a time when British commercial property values are seeing a slump, pressured by rising interest rates and broader economic uncertainty.

"Retail property companies are more operationally-focused compared with a decade ago and with rents now having a variable element linked to the tenant turnover and profitability, property firms want to make sure that they have got the right tenants in their centres," Liberum analyst Chris Spearing told Reuters.

Retail tenants are increasingly getting into short-term leases, while property firms are also worried about a significant rise in vacancy rates at retail properties, added Spearing.

Landsec has about 12 billion pounds worth of assets with two thirds of those properties in Central London, predominantly office spaces, while major retail destinations form 16% of the overall portfolio.

The London-headquartered Landsec counts Bluewater, Kent and Trinity Leeds among prominent spaces in its retail portfolio.

Cheshire, also the chairman of private hospital operator Spire, replaces Cressida Hogg, who was named the next chair of defence firm BAE Systems last year.

He will join the Landsec board in a non-executive capacity on March 23 and take over the chairman's role on May 16, when Hogg retires after almost five years in that position.

Cheshire, 63, is currently a non-executive director at BT Group and will leave the communications firm at their annual general meeting in July.

He had joined Channel 4's board last April and was in the forefront of discussions with the British government over its now-abandoned privatisation plan.

Sky News last week reported that Cheshire had emerged as the leading candidate for the chairman's post. Shares in the FTSE 100 firm were up about 1%.

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)