FTSE 100 shopping centres group Intu pushed up rents from retailers in 2016 despite clouds gathering over the broader retail market.

In results released Thursday, the property company said it had increased like-for-like net rental income by 3.6 per cent to £447m in the year to the end of December, helping to push underlying earnings up by 7 per cent to £200m.

Pre-tax profit, however, was down 67 per cent to £172m on a drop in the total value of Intu’s properties, led by falls in the valuations of shopping centres under development.

David Fischel, chief executive, said:

While the environment for business this year is likely to be challenging as the full impact emerges of the UK’s EU referendum vote, we are well positioned as we focus on top quality assets in prime locations with high occupancy and strong footfall. …We intend to deliver continuing growth in like-for-like net rental income over the coming years.

The results come after data showed that rising food and fuel prices contributed to a second consecutive month of falling UK retail sales in January.

Footfall at Intu’s centres was up 1.3 per cent despite a 2 per cent fall in the national average.

The company this year became the sole owner of the Merry Hill shopping centre near Birmingham, spending £410 million to acquire the 50 per cent it did not previously own. It also owns the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Lakeside in Essex, as well as shopping destinations in Spain.

The group will increase its dividend by 2 per cent to 14p a share.

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