Capco hammered by “economic and political uncertainty”

Back in 2011, our community put on the boxing gloves. We’ve not taken them off since!

Capco’s audited preliminary results for the year ended 31 December 2017, published on 21 February 2018, admit the company is reeling from “economic and political uncertainty”, which has “impacted the residential market resulting in a further valuation decline”.

In just 12 months, Capco’s Earl’s Court portfolio has reduced in value by £135 million. The cumulative devaluation since January 2015 is £378 million which is 28%.

Sales of apartments in Lillie Square, Capco’s joint venture with the Kwoks, whose leading family member is gaoled for corruption, have plummeted from one per week in the first half of 2017 to one per month between July and December. The disproportionate sales costs of £6 million a year contributed to a loss for Capco in its Lillie Square joint venture of £32 million over the past two years.

Meanwhile, in its preliminary results, Capco continued to relay its woes, bemoaning its “disappointment [with] the statement released by LBHF regarding the deliverability of ‘the proposed level of density and affordable housing’”, and how “the political environment has made discussions on enhancing the Masterplan more difficult”.

Capco blamed political and macroeconomic conditions for its troubles along with a difficult environment for large-scale residential development, worrying justifiably that “there will remain a risk of protests and legal challenges” to its Earl’s Court development. Curiously though, it put the latter down to “the scale of the Earls Court Masterplan” rather than to its deeply immoral plan to destroy our homes and displace our community.

Capco’s rush for the exit was further evidenced on 15 February, when Property Week broke the story that rather than implement the planning permission it had obtained to convert the Empress State building into luxury flats, Capco instead was close to completing the office block’s sale to the Mayor of London for continued occupation by the Metropolitan Police.

Then, on 28 February came the news that Hammersmith & Fulham Council had revoked the Earl’s Court & West Kensington Supplementary Planning Document, the statutory planning brief for the area, which the previous administration had produced to support demolishing the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates. Ignominiously consigning the Plan to the dustbin, the Council announced that “all physical and digital copies of the documents will be removed from Hammersmith Town Hall, public reference libraries and the Council’s website.”

Not to be left out, on 6 March, Transport for London’s top lawyer, General Counsel Howard Carter, announced to TfL’s most senior staff, the Mayor of London, TfL Board Members and the Deputy Mayor of London for Transport that with respect to the overall consented masterplan for Earl’s Court: “There is no requirement to demolish any of the Estates in order to develop the land owned by ECPL.”

Real estate specialist David Parsley summed it all up on 23 February in a comment piece for the leading trade journal Property Week. Describing the Earl’s Court scheme as a “sorry mess” he observed: “The Company has been fighting a bitter battle with residents of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates since buying the site eight years ago, a battle it is losing.

Instead of continuing to fight, Capco should see [Housing Minister Dominic] Raab’s hint that government will make life even more difficult for it if it continues as an opportunity to finally rid itself of this impossible project.

I understand that Hammersmith & Fulham chief Stephen Cowan has written to Capco offering to pay back the £70m the council received for the estates and take the homes back under his control. Capco should bite Cowan’s hand off and give the estates back, finalise the deal to sell Empress State and then get to work offloading this troublesome project.”

Wise counsel, which Capco would be well advised to act on immediately.

Upstream solution for downhill exit 


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