Q1/2021 was in line with our expectations and tracks our full year guidance. COVID-19 continued to challenge our business through government restrictions in some of our operating countries. Yet, our results remained on a solid level and reflect the resilience of our strategy and stability of our markets. Importantly, results improved from the prior quarter Q4/2020.
Tenant sales decline remained modest at -4.7%. The stability of tenant sales also reflects the strength of our strategy which is based on having a large share of necessity tenants and locations in densely populated major markets in the portfolio. Our strategy and the attractiveness of our locations for our tenants to run profitable business translated into strong leasing activity and we signed 64 thousand square meters of new leases compared to 53 thousand square meters in Q1 2020. Importantly, the average rent of both signed leases and the whole portfolio increased as a result of active leasing strategy and a leading indicator for future results.
Net rental income slightly declined (-3.8%) compared to Q1/2020 but remained on a solid level being 50.4 million for the quarter. While NRI is slightly lower compared to pre-pandemic Q1/2020, it is informative that Q1 NRI increased from the previous quarter. Direct operating profit 44.9 MEUR also exceeded previous quarter but was, however, -2.9% compared to last year. EPRA earnings per share was EUR 0.178 compared to EUR 0.195 reflecting the operational performance in the COVID-19 environment. Continued financial support from each Nordic country has helped insulate our financial results.
The strength of our portfolio was highlighted by the divestment of three lower-tier, non-core assets in the Stockholm area in line with our capital recycling strategy. Also, the outlook for commercial real estate transactions in the Nordics has turned positive. This development is a clear indication of the demand for high-quality Nordic real estate assets and supports the value of the portfolio. Citycon continues its programmed capital recycling and is looking into divestment opportunities across the Nordics. The market sentiment has improved particularly in the Norwegian transaction market but we have received several inquiries in other regions as well.
Citycon continued its planned refinancing and issued a green bond of 350 MEUR in Q1 at highly attractive pricing. The demand for the bond was extremely strong with an orderbook close to five times over-subscribed. Citycon’s bond spreads have returned to pre-covid levels, which allowed Citycon to issue the bond with a coupon of 1.625%, which is the second lowest in the company’s history. The new issue premium was also one of the lowest for any corporate Eurobond in 2021. Citycon also continued to make progress with its portfolio transformation strategy at numerous locations and announced a new development project in Liljeholmen, which is a growing area in the heart of Stockholm with a connected train station. The project, in co-operation with the City of Stockholm, is another showcase of our strategy combining transit-oriented necessity driven retail with modern residential and office premises. In suburban Helsinki, the construction of Lippulaiva and 8 adjacent residential buildings progressed as planned with the expected opening in April 2022.
Overall, Q1 was a solid quarter with several significant events amid signs of improving fundamentals. The strength of Citycon’s strategy was validated not only by stable financial and operational results but also successful capital recycling and bond transactions that give important insight on the outlook of our business. We remain committed to our diversification through densification strategy and continue to progress our portfolio transformation. The outlook for 2021 remains unchanged and will be partially dependent on the roll-out of the vaccine, after which we anticipate a robust reboot in consumer spending as evidenced in the markets where the vaccination roll-out is more progressed.
Source: Citycon's Interim Report Q1/2021