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Benchmark Group PLC (BMK)


Thursday 21 August, 2003

Benchmark Group PLC


Benchmark Group PLC
21 August 2003

21 August 2003

Benchmark Sells £45 million of City of London Properties

Benchmark Group PLC ('Benchmark'), the specialist central London investment and
development company, has recently concluded the sales of the entire business and
undertaking in respect of the leasehold interest in Mitre House, 120 Cheapside
and Compter House, 4 Wood Street, London EC2 to Land Securities Group PLC ('Land
Securities') for £35.8 million and the freehold interest in New Chapter House,
166/170 Bishopsgate, London EC2 to clients of ING Real Estate for £8.6 million.

Mitre House and Compter House, located on and just off Cheapside, are situated
between Land Securities' existing holdings of One New Change and 30 Gresham
Street.  The buildings are held on a long lease from the City Parochial
Foundation with 162 years unexpired at a ground rent payable of 10.85% of net
income received, currently £387,425 per annum.

Mitre House provides around 7,496 sq m (80,693 sq ft) of offices and around 232
sq m (2,497 sq ft) of retail space.  The entire office element is let to a
subsidiary of Citigroup until 2010 producing a net rent of £3.45 million per
annum.  Compter House provides offices of 1,338 sq m (14,402 sq ft) and 275 sq m
(2,961 sq ft) of retail and public house accommodation.  The offices are
multi-let to tenants including Oriel Securities and solicitors, Bates Wells

New Chapter House provides around 2,198 sq m (23,664 sq ft) of offices and
retail accommodation.  The offices are let to solicitors, Pritchard Englefield,
until 2016 at £620,000 p.a. with a break option in August 2006 and the retail
accommodation is multi-let producing an additional £136,500 per annum.

These sales result in a loss to Benchmark of £6.7million based on the 31
December 2002 book cost, and a loss on historic cost of £5.9 million.  A loss of
£4.7 million in respect of these post year end sales will be reflected as an
exceptional item in the consolidated profit and loss account for the year ended
30 June 2003 to reflect the permanent diminution in the values of these

Following these sales and the sales announced on 10 July 2003, and based on the
31 December 2002 balance sheet figures, Benchmark's pro-forma gearing will be
reduced to 60.7% (81.5% at 31 December 2002) and if Benchmark's share of
non-recourse joint venture borrowings were included, the pro-forma gearing would
be 126.9% (159.4% at 31 December 2002).

Nigel J. Kempner, Chief Executive of Benchmark, said: 'These sales have further
reduced our exposure to the City market and are sales of properties which had
originally been acquired for long term development potential with solid income
from good tenants.  We believe that the prospects for rental growth in the City
are further away in time than we had originally anticipated and, as stated on
other occasions, this is part of our policy of reducing gearing and
concentrating again on just the West End market where we are beginning to see
greater potential.'

Robert Heskett, Head of Central London Portfolio Management at Land Securities
said: 'These purchases demonstrate how we are able to take advantage of the City
market conditions to acquire a well-located investment property with a strong
income stream and future development potential close to our existing holdings.'

For further information:

Benchmark Group PLC                             Tavistock Communications
Nigel Kempner                                   Jeremy Carey/Molly Dover
Tel:  020 7659 0500                             Tel:  020 7600 2288

Land Securities Group PLC                       Financial Dynamics
Robert Heskett / Emma Denne                     Stephanie Highett
Tel: 020 7413 9000                              Tel: 020 7831 3113

                      This information is provided by RNS
            The company news service from the London Stock Exchange                                                                                                                                               

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