As a company for the country, The Crown Estate’s strategy focuses on making the most of its unique attributes to create financial, environmental and social value for the nation, both now and for the long term.
2022/23 Results Summary
• Net revenue profit: £442.6 million generated for the nation’s finances, £129.9 million higher than last year. This increase primarily reflects option fee income from the signing of Agreements for Lease for six offshore wind farms through the Round 4 leasing programme and revenue resilience in its other lines of business.
• Total return performance: One-year total return across the entire business is 6.2%, outperforming the annual MSCI bespoke total return benchmark of -1.6%. The Crown Estate also outperformed its MSCI commercial property bespoke benchmark by 1.4 percentage points.
• Value: The value of the entire portfolio increased by 1.3% to £15.8 billion. This has been driven primarily by an increase in the valuation of the Marine portfolio.
Dan Labbad, Chief Executive of The Crown Estate said:
“Amid a further year of uncertainty and volatility, we have seen variations in performance across our business. However, our record return to the Treasury and our positive relative performance is testament to the resilience and strength of our diverse portfolio. Over the last ten years, we have contributed £3.2 billion for the benefit of the nation’s finances through the active management of a portfolio that has doubled in value to nearly £16 billion. “Our enhanced revenue from the Round 4 offshore wind leasing programme reflects the immense amount of ground-breaking work we have undertaken over the past two decades, working in partnership across many sectors, to create a world-leading offshore wind market. We are now focussed on how we continue to maintain the UK’s position as a global leader, including supporting other technologies, the supply chain, skills and jobs, all of which are vital to a net zero and energy secure future.
“We are also laying the foundations for our long-term impact by seeking to address areas of national interest such as nature recovery, economic renewal and regeneration, the future of sustainable agriculture and helping to secure London’s position as a world-class city. “While we have set out an ambitious strategy, we are not complacent about the challenges ahead. By working in partnership and remaining steadfast in our commitment to deliver, we are confident The Crown Estate can continue to enhance its contribution for the benefit of the nation, its finances and its future.”
Creating lasting and shared prosperity for the nation
As a company for the country, The Crown Estate’s strategy focuses on making the most of its unique attributes to create financial, environmental and social value for the nation, both now and for the long term. It is a commercial organisation operating between the public and private sector with a diverse national portfolio that reaches across urban and rural land as well as management of the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It delivers value in two ways: through the direct financial value it returns to the Treasury and the significant broader value it creates through its investment and activities across its portfolio.
The Crown Estate’s strategic focus is in areas where there are long-term structural challenges facing the nation and where it is well-placed to play a role:
Being a leader in supporting the UK towards a net zero carbon and energy-secure future
Helping to create inclusive communities and through its activities supporting economic growth and productivity
Taking a leading role in stewarding the UK’s natural environment and biodiversity
Aligned with these areas of focus, The Crown Estate will continue to enhance its investment across its portfolio. In particular, over the next few years it will further increase its investment in areas that align with national interests such as regeneration and development and world-leading data and evidence for the seabed, supporting the pace required for the UK‘s transition to net zero and an energy secure future. In addition to this, it will also be investing in its property portfolio to ensure it remains relevant and fit for the future.
As The Crown Estate cannot borrow funds, its ability to invest is derived from actively trading its assets to recycle capital into the business and revenue retention (known as the statutory transfer) for reinvestment. In agreement with Treasury, The Crown Estate’s statutory transfer for the year end 31 March 2023 has increased to £200.5 million, enhancing The Crown Estate’s overall investment capability to deliver long-term value in line with its areas of strategic focus. This will further enable The Crown Estate to increase the net revenue profit it returns to Treasury and deliver continued broader value through the impact of its activities.
Addressing climate change and maintaining and protecting nature are at the heart of The Crown Estate’s strategy. It recognises the biggest impact it can have is to help the UK to meet its renewable energy and climate goals by accelerating the growth of offshore renewables and maximising carbon sequestration and nature-based solutions on land and at sea. In the past year cumulative operational offshore wind capacity reached 11.8GW (2021/22 10.8GW) across The Crown Estate’s holdings, enough to power 11 million homes.
Within its property and land operations it has made progress in delivering reductions in energy use and emissions across London, Regional and Rural. The Crown Estate has worked with partners to implement carbon reduction and energy efficiency measures, undertaken net zero audits to develop asset-level plans and embedded a net zero transformation programme into the business. As a result of these efforts, it has achieved a reduction in operational carbon emissions (Scope 1 and 2) of 12%.
The Crown Estate set a stretching 5% reduction in energy consumption across its London, Regional and Windsor real estate assets, marking the start of a challenging energy reduction programme. It achieved an absolute energy consumption reduction of 1.5%, gaining valuable insights that will enable the business to achieve greater improvements in the years ahead.
Tackling the climate crisis must go hand in hand with tackling the nature crisis. The Crown Estate’s diverse portfolio provides a unique opportunity to contribute to nature recovery, and influence land and seabed use for nature, climate, energy and food security. It will work in partnership with farmers, marine customers and others who rely on land and sea. It has embedded nature recovery into its strategy and it is in the process of establishing quantifiable commitments, including integration with net zero commitments.
The Marine business is confronting major national challenges head on and supporting the UK’s position as a world leader in offshore wind development. The Crown Estate’s activities are a key driver in the UK’s fight against climate change and making the country’s energy supply more sustainable and secure, including through supporting vital new technologies in an increasingly busy space. In addition, it is supporting development in a way that is sensitive to nature and can help rejuvenate local economies and communities by supporting the creation of new jobs and industries.
The value of the Marine portfolio increased by 14% to £5.7 billion, driven largely by offshore wind, primarily as a result of completing the Habitats Regulations Assessment process and signing Round 4 Agreements for Lease, as well as supporting customers to progress Round 3 offshore wind projects.
Offshore wind leasing, Round 4: In January 2023, The Crown Estate signed Agreements for Lease for six offshore wind farms which have the potential to power seven million homes:
This achievement reflects ground-breaking work over the past two decades, working alongside a wide range of cross-sector partners to create a world-leading offshore wind market. The total commitment for option fees across all six projects is approximately £1bn per year which will contribute towards The Crown Estate’s net revenue profit. Option fees are payable for a minimum of 3 years and up to ten years depending on when projects become ready to enter into a lease.
Accelerating offshore wind deployment in a sustainable way:
In June 2022, The Crown Estate doubled its commitment to The Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme, from £25 million to £50 million. This programme, launched in December 2020 in partnership with the UK Government and 27 member organisations, seeks to: create more opportunity for the co-existence of different seabed uses; support the consenting process; protect wildlife; accelerate the development of offshore wind; and drive the recovery of the marine environment.
Digitally mapping the seabed to inform a coordinated and sustainable approach to its future:
In June 2023, The Crown Estate announced it had commenced pioneering work to digitally map the seabed resource needed to meet future demand, enabling the delivery of multiple priorities including net zero and nature recovery, as well as the enhanced co-ordination of future activities out to 2050.
The Crown Estate’s commitment is to support London’s renewal, ensuring it continues to be locally relevant and globally distinctive. As a major and contiguous landowner in the West End, The Crown Estate is addressing London’s post-pandemic response; responding to the evolving needs of residents, visitors and customers; and supporting the UK’s net zero ambitions alongside delivering a greener and more accessible destination.
Capital value and performance:
The valuation of the London portfolio fell by 6.5% to £7.2 billion. This is in line with the wider market as property valuations have been impacted by inflation, rising debt costs and economic uncertainty which served to drive up yields. However, prime office space and the long lease portfolio have both proved resilient and the portfolio outperformed its MSCI benchmark during the year by a relative 0.6%.
There were 102 new lettings in the year which have achieved rents of up to 4% above the estimated rental values on new leases. Footfall in Regent Street has continued to rise and was up 39% on the prior year, however this is still 10% below the last pre-pandemic period in 2019. The end of year void rate has increased to 18.4% (2021/22: 10.9%) as The Crown Estate seeks to restart its development pipeline. This is expected to continue into the next financial year, before key properties return to market during 2025. Excluding major developments and smaller refurbishments, the void rate was 4.1% at 31 March 2023.
Supporting the hospitality industry to attract talent:
This year, The Crown Estate ran its first-ever hospitality jobs fair. With 242 people attending, 30 were offered a position at the fair and 78% of attendees left with a more positive view of the industry. A second jobs fair was held with retail customers, including Gymshark, Lacoste and Tesco, which attracted 402 people.
The Crown Estate holds a significant nationwide portfolio that includes retail parks, shopping centres and a substantial strategic landholding. The Regional portfolio has the long-term potential to support the national need for inclusive regeneration and economic development, including through supporting housing and the development of new innovation and business hubs.
Capital value and performance:
The value of the Regional portfolio reduced by 11.8% to £1.5 billion. The primary cause of this was the reversion of positive market sentiment that had been seen in out-of-town retail parks in the latter half of 2022, led by concerns about consumer spending and the impact of higher interest rates. The portfolio underperformed its MSCI benchmark by a relative -1.3% this year, albeit with outperformance in the second half the year.
The Regional portfolio’s year end void rate was 7.2% [2021/22: 7.1%]. This is better than forecast with customer retention helped by proactive asset and customer management. The portfolio has achieved rents of up to 5% above the estimated rental values on new leases.
Recruit regional employment programme:
Now in its sixth year, the Recruit Regional programme is a free employment and training initiative which connects local unemployed people with jobs in their area. It is delivered in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions at retail locations including Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire and Fosse Park in Leicester. During the year, workplace co-ordinators have engaged with 602 people and successfully placed 173 jobseekers into employment with local employers. The Crown Estate hosted seven job fairs during the year which saw over 1,500 people exploring opportunities at Fosse Park and Rushden Lakes, with 245 offers made.
Windsor & Rural
Windsor & Rural strategy:
The Crown Estate is one of the largest rural landowners in the UK, managing 200,000 acres of land, including Windsor Great Park and the wider Windsor Estate. The rural strategy is to be an exemplar of large-scale sustainable, diversified agricultural and environmental best practice. The Windsor Estate, which is home to a number of unique habitats, aims to become recognised as a leading UK rural estate and a centre of excellence for environmental and ecological best practice.
The portfolio’s total value increased 16.7% to £1.4 billion.
Working in partnership with farmers to support nature:
This year The Crown Estate developed new environmental-leading Farm Business Tenancy agreements that will optimise the future of its rural estates for nature recovery and to support sustainable food production. Alongside this, The Crown Estate has set a target to repurpose 15% of its agricultural land to nature recovery.
The Crown Estate Environment Fund:
A £5 million capital funding programme available since 1 April 2022 that is supporting farmers in a wide variety of environmental works, including the planting of over 1,000 acres of new woodland and over 100 miles of new hedgerows. This year, 35 miles of hedgerows were planted. The initial period for the fund is for three years and this will be reviewed and extended as required.
Landscape restoration in Windsor:
A ten-year landscape restoration and replanting programme has made further progress this year. The project is restoring the treescape across the Estate. It uses a mix of native and other species of high value and relevance to the Windsor wildlife and landscape and provides resilience to climate change.