The acceleration of the retail apocalypse under Coronavirus

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Turning anchor tenant spaces into an organ of the behemoth which kills small retail seems to be a sure way of killing off malls altogether. Unless the entire concept of "anchor tenants" has been wrong from the start.
The last mile: Amazon in talks with Simon to convert bankrupt megastores into fulfillment centers
The companies are eyeing spaces once leased to bankrupt department stores J.C. Penney and Sears

Amazon may soon take over the spaces of bankrupt retailers it has left in the dust.
The e-commerce giant is in talks with mall owner Simon Property Group to turn anchor stores into distribution hubs, the Wall Street Journal reported.The main target for conversion appears to be Simon-owned stores formerly or currently occupied by J.C. Penny and Sears Holdings. The mall owner has 63 J.C. Penny and 11 Sears stores, and both department-store chains have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and have been closing dozens of locations.

Simon — the largest mall owner in the U.S. with 204 properties — has been grappling with retail tenant closures in recent years even before Covid. The online shopping phenomenon has been giving brick-and-mortar retailers a run for their money for years. But the coronavirus forced many malls to temporarily close, worsening retailers’ bottom lines.

Amazon, meanwhile, reported a record $88.9 billion in second quarter sales. It’s also announced that it would increase its fulfillment center square footage by 50 percent this year.
Simon may have to rent the space at a discount: Warehouse rents are typically less than $10 a square foot, while department-store rents can be as low as $4 a square foot or as high as $19 a square foot.

Simon and Brookfield Property Partners are putting in a joint bid to take over the J.C. Penny chain, which would give them more control over the store space.
 

David Goldsmith

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Mall owner CBL Properties nears bankruptcy
The landlord has $3B in debt and has failed to collect rent

Suffocating under retailers’ inability to pay rent and more than $3 billion in debt, CBL Properties is on its way toward declaring bankruptcy.
The company announced that it reached an agreement with some of its creditors to hand control to holders of its unsecured notes and that it is negotiating with senior lenders and others who haven’t yet signed onto the deal. The process will attempt to eliminate roughly $900 million of debt, according to Bloomberg.

“They never got their debt to a place where they could get through the next downturn like we’re seeing now,” Vince Tibone, a senior analyst at Green Street Advisors, told Bloomberg.
Like many mall owners, CBL Properties has been struggling as anchor stores, like Sears and J.C. Penney, and mainstays, such as Forever 21, have gone bankrupt. To fill space, CBL has turned to non-traditional tenants, such as fitness centers and medical offices.

However, amid the coronavirus pandemic, CBL collected only 27 percent of billed cash rents in April and likely will get 25 to 30 percent of May rents, according to the company.
The company owns 91 malls across the country, most of which are in the south and midwest.

Issues collecting rent have been the norm for many commercial property owners. Simon Property Group, the largest U.S. mall operator, saw net income fall by nearly half, to $254.2 million, this quarter, although the company was able to collect 73 percent of July rent.
 

David Goldsmith

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Mall of America, behind on mortgage, fights foreclosure
Mall owner enters cash-management agreement with special servicer

The country’s biggest shopping mall is trying to stave off foreclosure after falling months behind on its $1.4 billion mortgage.
Triple Five Group, which owns the Mall of America, has entered into a cash-management agreement with a special servicer, CWCapital Asset Management, according to the Star Tribune.
Canada-based Triple Five began to fall behind on payments several months ago and the loan was transferred to special servicing in May. A representative reported that revenues had plunged 85 percent, according to the Tribune.

Triple Five is a family firm led by CEO Don Ghermezian and chairman Nader Ghermezian. It has been struggling for years to get the American Dream Mall in New Jersey’s Meadowlands going.

Malls across the country have been battered by the pandemic, which has forced many retailers to close and triggered a slew of lawsuits between tenants and landlords over unpaid rent.

A number of struggling retailers, including Tailored Brands, Brooks Brothers and J. Crew, have filed for bankruptcy. Last month, the anchor tenant of the luxury Hudson Yards mall in New York, Neiman Marcus, said it would never reopen the West Side location. The Texas-based department store filed for bankruptcy protection in May.

Differences in state pandemic rules mean some malls have been allowed to reopen, while others remain shut. Mall of America reopened in June and tenant rent collection reached 50 percent in July, up from 33 percent in April.
The mall owner’s cash-management agreement comes with greater reporting requirements and remittance of net cash on a monthly basis, according to Trepp.
 

David Goldsmith

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25% of U.S. malls are expected to shut within 5 years. Giving them a new life won’t be easy
Coresight Research estimates 25% of America’s roughly 1,000 malls will close over the next three to five years.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a demise that was already underway.
  • “Just because retail space has gone vacant or remained fallow does not mean that it is automatically a good candidate for repurposing into industrial space,” Moody’s Analytics real estate analyst Victor Calanog said.
  • According to data pulled by Moody’s Analytics REIS, apartment development in the U.S. is expected to be down 15.6% in a post-Covid-19 world. Office development is set to drop 10%, it said, while retail falls 15.7%.
  • Industrial development, meantime, is expected to pick up 3.6%. What is going to happen to America’s dead malls? That’s a million-dollar question plaguing retailers and real estate developers.
With a report circulating earlier this month that the biggest U.S. mall owner Simon Property Group has been in talks with Amazon to convert some shuttered Sears and J.C. Penney department stores into fulfillment centers, many industry analysts have been pontificating on the future of malls as logistics hubs.

The consensus seems to be that turning old retail space into new warehouses might not be so easy, even though it might seem like a logical solution. Demand for logistics buildings is skyrocketing as e-commerce sales balloon. But the hurdles include the need to have properties rezoned, which could be met with pushback from local municipalities.
“Just because retail space has gone vacant or remained fallow does not mean that it is automatically a good candidate for repurposing into industrial space,” the head of Moody’s Analytics commercial real estate economics division, Victor Calanog, said in a report released Thursday.
“One cannot simply build industrial buildings in areas zoned for commercial use,” he explained. “Often, that requires rezoning areas — a long and tedious process with a low probability of success.”
“State and local governments typically tax industrial properties at anywhere from half to two-thirds the rate of commercial properties, so municipalities have little incentive to rezone areas from commercial to industrial use, as they will collect less tax revenues,” Calanog said.
Demand for various commercial real estate asset types is expected to shift noticeably because of the coronavirus pandemic, with more people now working from home, flocking to the suburbs for space and buying online things they used to browse for in stores.

According to data pulled by Moody’s Analytics REIS, apartment development in the U.S. is expected to be down 15.6% in a post-Covid-19 world. Office development is set to drop 10%, it said, while retail falls 15.7%. Industrial development, meantime, is expected to pick up 3.6%.
The firm did find five markets where it said it would make the most sense to covert vacant retail space into warehouse space, based on where retail has been underperforming and where warehouse demand is hot. Those are: Central New Jersey, Northern New Jersey, Long Island, Memphis and Detroit.
But shopping malls are likely going to be shuttering in suburbs all across the country,
Destiny USA mall reopens as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are eased in Syracuse, New York, U.S.
Maranie Staab | Reuters
as store closures grow in number and landlords capitulate.
Another new report out this week from Coresight Research estimates 25% of America’s roughly 1,000 malls will close over the next three to five years, with the pandemic accelerating a demise that was already underway before the new virus emerged.
The malls most at risk of going dark are classified as so-called B-, C- and D-rated malls, meaning they bring in fewer sales per square foot than an A mall. An A++ mall could bring in as much as $1,000 in sales per square foot, for example, while a C+ mall does about $320.
There are roughly 380 C- and D-rated malls in the U.S., according to an analysis by the commercial real estate firm Green Street Advisors. It has said malls rated C and below “are not viable retail centers long term.”
CBL & Associates, a Tennessee-based mall owner that has a number of B- and C-rated malls in its portfolio, has said it plans to file for bankruptcy by Oct. 1, highlighting just how much pressure these landlords are facing.
Even high-end malls are under pressure, though. No one is really immune. An upscale mall owner in Miami, Bal Harbour Shops, is currently moving to evict the luxury department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue for not paying rent since mid-March. It owes Bal Harbour roughly $1.9 million, according to court documents.
“Despite being given months to honor its past due rental obligations and despite Saks’ impressive post-COVID sales at Bal Harbour Shops, Saks steadfastly refused to make any effort to pay any part of its rent,” Bal Harbour Shops President and Chief Executive Matthew Whitman Lazenby said in a statement.
“Bal Harbour Shops has worked tirelessly to ensure our business and our tenants can survive and thrive in this environment,” he said. “Regrettably, this injudicious behavior has left us with no other option than to terminate the Saks lease and sue to evict Saks from Bal Harbour Shops.”
A representative from Hudson’s Bay-owned Saks was not immediately available to comment.
About 90% of occupants in U.S. malls are either experiential tenants like movie theaters, or department store chains and apparel retailers, according to the Coresight analysis. This makes malls the most vulnerable type of shopping centers to the Covid-19 impact, it said, compared with other properties like strip centers that have grocery stores and outlet centers that offer consumers bargains.
During the pandemic, movie theaters and clothing shops have faced long windows of being closed, while consumers could still flock to strip centers for food, cleaning products and other essentials. In some states, such as New York and California, movie theaters remain closed to this day. And so with minimal revenue coming in, these are the businesses that are most likely requesting rent reductions, or not paying rent at all.
Mall developers had up until now been courting entertainment companies like Dave & Buster’s and iFly indoor skydiving, and restaurants like Cheesecake Factory, to lessen their dependence on shrinking retailers. But those businesses have also not fared well in an age of social distancing.
So, if not warehouses and entertainment complexes, analysts have pondered other potential use cases for so-called dead malls: Churches, medical facilities, office spaces and even apartment complexes.
But even office space is a risky bet now, as the working-from-home trend could become permanent for some. Workers in JPMorgan Chase’s corporate and investment bank, for example, will cycle between days spent at the office and at home, keeping the ability to work remotely on a part-time basis. The world’s biggest Wall Street bank by revenue has said it could shutter backup trading floors located outside New York and London as a result of the move.
The outdoor retailer REI is also looking to sell its recently completed corporate campus in suburban Seattle, shifting instead to more satellite offices, as a result of the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, this whole Covid thing has thrown the experiential pitch out the window,” Moody’s Calanog said in a phone interview. “Until we resolve this pandemic, I suspect we are going to be in a holding pattern with hollow retail space.”
“Then we will see what the most viable format is,” he said.



 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Movie theaters might not come back after all
Lackluster ticket sales for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” have industry insiders worried

The release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” was expected to be a return to some semblance of pre-coronavirus normalcy for movie theaters, but the industry might have a longer road ahead than some thought.
Around 68 percent of movie theaters across the U.S. were open for the film’s debut over Labor Day weekend, but it made just $9.8 million over that weekend, according to the New York Times.

While there were no expectations that “Tenet” would perform as well as Nolan’s past films — it made about one-fifth of what his most recent blockbusters earned in their opening weekends — its performance was much worse than Hollywood hoped.

That could be attributed, in part, to widespread theater closures in New York and Los Angeles, two of the biggest markets in the country. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has hesitated to reopen movie theaters, even as museums, gyms and indoor dining have all resumed.

But there are also larger concerns that moviegoers simply aren’t ready to return to theaters.
“We have no way of forecasting how long it will take for consumer comfort with indoor movie theaters to return,” said media researcher Rich Greenfield in a report cited by the Times.

Shares in AMC, which opened many of its theaters nationwide in August, climbed the day “Tenet” hit theaters, but have since fallen about 17 percent. Cinemark has also seen an 18 percent decline since Sept. 4, while Regal Cinemas’ parent company has experienced a 14 percent decline.

Theater operators are left without much information for planning. They’re largely beholden to Hollywood sticking to its release schedule and reopenings in major cities like New York, L.A. and San Francisco. Schedule-wise, “Tenet”’s poor performance has prompted studios to push back the opening dates for some major releases, including “Wonder Woman 1984.”
 

David Goldsmith

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Staff member
Brookfield Properties to lay off 20% of retail division
Cuts will impact about 400 workers

Brookfield Properties, one of the largest mall owners in the country, plans to lay off 20 percent of its retail staff, according to a report by CNBC.
Brookfield Properties plans to cut jobs at its retail division because of a decline in business and in new leasing activity. The company said it will make cuts “to align with the future scale of our portfolio,” according to Jared Chupaila, CEO of Brookfield Properties’ retail group in an internal document shared with CNBC.

Chupaila said the reductions will affect staff at the company’s corporate headquarters and its leasing agents. Brookfield Properties retail division has about 2,000 employees.
Brookfield Properties is a subsidiary of Brookfield Property Partners, a real estate arm of the Toronto-based investment manager Brookfield Asset Management. The company became one of the largest mall owners in the country when Brookfield Property Partners acquired Chicago-based GGP for $9.25 billion in 2018 and merged the assets into Brookfield Properties.

Brookfield Properties has more than 170 retail properties in 43 states, according to its website. The portfolio includes Brookfield Place in downtown Manhattan, Shops at Merrick Park in Coral Gables, Florida, and the Crown Building in New York, according to its website.

Retail, especially malls, have taken a hit during the pandemic. A number of anchor tenants have filed for bankruptcy.
In September, Brookfield Property Partners and Simon Property Group agreed to buy J.C. Penney out of bankruptcy in a deal valued at $1.75 billion. J.C. Penney is an anchor tenant at many Brookfield and Simon Property’s malls.

Brookfield did not immediately return a request for comment.
 

David Goldsmith

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Staff member
Bed Bath & Beyond will permanently close UES store
In total, home-goods chain is closing 6 locations in New York and 63 nationally

Home-goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond will close its Upper East Side location at 410 East 61st Street in December, according to a notice filed with the New York State Department of Labor.
The Manhattan store is one of 63 nationwide expected to close by the end of the year, with six of those located in New York. In July, the company announced it would close 200 stores over the next two years.
The chain anticipates that 79 employees will lose their jobs when the 61st Street location closes, according to the DOL notice. Company representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jeff Mooallem, president and CEO of Gazit Horizons, the landlord of 410 East 61st Street, said the company has a lead on a new commercial tenant and that he is hopeful about announcing an agreement in the next 30 days.

The pandemic has left many traditional retailers, who were already under pressure from the e-commerce boom, facing difficult choices. Bed Bath & Beyond’s strategy of inundating shoppers with coupons and stocking its stores with a wide variety of goods was already becoming outdated, thanks to competition from online retailers like Amazon.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Bed Bath & Beyond announced it would sell about half of its real estate to a private equity firm and then lease back the space, a deal expected to earn the company more than $250 million.

The retailer sold 2.1 million square feet of space to Oak Street Real Estate Capital — including its headquarters in Union Township, New Jersey — and in February, new CEO Mark Tritton announced plans to invest $1 billion on upgrading its stores and lease buybacks.

But the pandemic changed things. In May, the company paid no rent at any of its locations. In June, it paid at almost 39 percent of them, according to the latest Datex Property Solutions report on national retail chains.
 

David Goldsmith

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Staff member
Retail bankruptcies on pace to rival 2010: report
Non-bankruptcy related store closings have spiked in 2020

It’s been a difficult year for retailers, and things may get worse before they get better: The number of bankruptcy filings by retailers this year could outpace those filed in the wake of the Great Recession.
As of Sept. 29, nearly 30 retailers filed for bankruptcy, leading to almost 6,000 store closures, according to a biannual bankruptcy report from BDO International, a financial services firm. That’s on pace to beat 2010, when 48 retailers filed for bankruptcy.

But this year has already seen one unfortunate record broken: Approximately 10,226 store closures were announced from January to mid-August, surpassing the record 9,500 stores that closed throughout 2019, according to BDO’s report.

This year is also unusual because many of those store closures are unrelated to bankruptcies: More than 15 retailers that have not filed for bankruptcy — including Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and Gap — decided to shed at least 50 stores each, totalling more than 4,200 store closings.
In the pandemic-driven recession, apparel and footwear retailers have been among the hardest hit, with 10 bankruptcy filings accompanied by 2,368 store closings.
One notable example was Brooks Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy in July and is likely to be acquired by Authentic Brands Group and SPARC Group, according to media reports. Others include Neiman Marcus, which emerged from bankruptcy earlier this month, and J.C. Penney, which has been acquired by Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners.

Home furnishing retailers came in as the second-most affected, with five retailers filing for bankruptcy and 1,433 store closings.
 

David Goldsmith

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CEO says bankruptcy is not goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Company files for Chapter 11, will close 185 restaurants

Yet another chain is seeking bankruptcy protection after the pandemic decimated its business.
The restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy Wednesday, introducing with it plans to close 185 locations, USA Today reports. The filing will leave the franchise with 236 operating restaurants.
The company hopes to stay in business, saying in a statement that it had “reached an understanding with its secured lenders to support its restructuring.”
“This announcement does not mean ‘Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday’ but ‘Hello, to a stronger Ruby Tuesday’,” CEO Shawn Lederman said in a statement on the company’s website.

Sit-down restaurants have been battered by a pandemic that shut down restaurants completely, putting a halt to indoor dining for months in some areas.

But Ruby Tuesday was facing headwinds long before. In court filings, Lederman noted that the chain was challenged by increasing competition from fast-food and fast-casual companies, reduced traffic to its mall-based locations and the rise of new food delivery options.
 

David Goldsmith

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Fewer than half of holiday shoppers will hit the mall this year
ICSC survey finds consumers will shop online or at small businesses

In a typical year, the holidays are peak season for malls — but this isn’t a typical year, and shopping centers that have already been hurt by the pandemic will continue to feel the economic crunch in the leadup to the holiday shopping season.
Only 45 percent of shoppers plan to visit a mall to do some or all of their holiday shopping, down from 64 percent last year, Bloomberg reported, citing data from a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Consumers will still be shopping, and about 80 percent of respondents said they still planned to spend money in a physical store. But many said they’d patronize small businesses instead of larger shopping centers.
More than half of respondents said that sales would affect their holiday purchases, and many plan to shop online this year.

More than three-quarters of respondents said they expected to start shopping earlier than usual. The survey was based on responses from more than 1,000 U.S. shoppers between Sept. 28 and 30.

“We have to look at this year somewhat in isolation,” ICSC CEO Tom McGee said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We’re in the midst of a pandemic and that’s clearly going to temper people’s appetite for going out to public spaces.”
Traffic at the country’s largest malls dropped 51 percent in the first eight months of 2020 compared to the same period last year, according to data Placer.ai provided to The Real Deal.
 

David Goldsmith

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Staff member
Does Brookfield’s balance sheet fully reveal the health of its real estate?
The investment giant is among the players most vulnerable to the pandemic. But you may not know that from its books.

Through a sprawling web of associated entities, Brookfield is one of the country’s biggest real estate investors, particularly in office and retail (Illustration by Maciej Frolow)
Standing in front of a mostly virtual audience in a fitted dark suit with slicked-back salt-and-pepper hair, Brian Kingston attempted to calm investors’ nerves about the coronavirus’ impact on real estate.
“Ultimately, this is temporary,” the CEO of Brookfield Property Partners said at the firm’s investor day in late September. “We will recover, we’ll come out the other side of it.”
The numbers were concerning: As of Sept. 18, only about 10 percent of Manhattan workers had returned to the office, according to CBRE. An August survey of hundreds of CEOs by KPMG showed that 69 percent of them planned to downsize their long-term space requirements. Brookfield Property Partners is among New York City’s largest office landlords — it controls about 27 million square feet in the city —and is in the midst of building an office megacomplex known as Manhattan West.
The company’s U.S. retail portfolio — a mall-heavy 120 million square feet — was also coming under stress. Just days before the investor conference, the firm told employees it was cutting roughly 20 percent of its retail staff and suggested it would shed some of its assets.
While most retail and office landlords have been hit by the coronavirus, Brookfield Property Partners has far more leverage than its American peers. But as a Canadian company, it can value its assets differently.
At the heart of these differences is the company’s accounting. Unlike its American rivals, who report under GAAP, Brookfield Property Partners uses IFRS, an accounting standard commonly used by foreign companies. Under IFRS, the company has greater discretion over its real estate asset valuations — it does not have to base its valuations on independent third-party appraisals and can instead devise them based on internal assessments. To put it simply: The listed values of its properties may not reflect current market conditions if Brookfield’s leaders choose not to sufficiently adjust them.

In a rising market, those distinctions may not matter. But given that the company collected just about 35 percent of its retail rents in the second quarter and long-term office occupancy is in flux, the question becomes: Does Brookfield’s balance sheet fully reveal the health of its assets?
We the North
Brookfield declined to make executives available for an interview, but provided written responses to The Real Deal’s questions.

Brookfield Property Partners is one of the largest commercial landlords in the U.S., but its roots are deeply Canadian. Edper Investments, precursor to Brookfield Property Partners’ parent company Brookfield Asset Management (BAM), was founded by members of the Bronfman family of the Seagram liquor fortune.
This Canadian pedigree gives the firm a competitive advantage over local U.S. real estate investors. IFRS allows Brookfield Property Partners to rely on its management’s own judgment.
“Even though you have a reasonable amount of discretion in the United States, you even have a hell of a lot more with IFRS,” said James Cox, a securities law expert at Duke University.

Under IFRS, Brookfield Property Partners does not need to turn to third parties to assess the value of its real estate assets. Instead, the company can base valuations on its internal assessments. Meanwhile, companies that report under GAAP usually base valuations on historical cost — i.e., how much the assets traded for.
Al Rosen, a Toronto-based forensic accountant who predicted the collapse of Canadian telecom giant Nortel Networks, likens IFRS to an 8-year-old preparing their own report card.
“The rules themselves allow you to pick the numbers,” said Rosen, speaking generally about IFRS and not specifically about Brookfield. “This bullshit does not get exposed enough in Canada.”

Brookfield Property Partners said it uses third-party appraisers to “compare the results of those external appraisals to our internally prepared values.”
And those numbers, according to the firm, match up pretty closely. In its most recent quarterly report, the company said it used external appraisals on 14 percent of its office portfolio, and that those appraisals were within 0.5 percent of management’s valuations. But there is no mention in the report of whether Brookfield conducted these appraisals for its retail portfolio. Retail was among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, and thus retail properties were at greater risk of losing value.

Over the years, BAM and its subsidiaries have faced scrutiny for how they value assets. Roddy Boyd at the Foundation of Financial Journalism first highlighted these issues in 2013. A September report by Dalrymple Finance, an investment firm run by short seller Keith Dalrymple, also flags some of these concerns.
Given the pandemic, some of Brookfield’s peers wrote down their asset values substantially.
A look at Brookfield Property Partners’ second-quarter financial statements, however, reveals that the company did not follow suit. (The company says its valuations are “compared to market data, third-party reports, research material and broker opinions” for Brookfield to review. )

Brookfield Property Partners’ joint venture in the Ala Moana Center, a 2.2 million-square-foot retail center in Honolulu, saw its carrying value decline just 3.75 percent to $1.87 billion in June from December. Hawaii’s tourism has fallen off dramatically since the state ordered mandatory quarantines for out-of-state travelers in March. Neiman Marcus, one of the center’s anchor tenants, filed a WARN notice Sept. 21 announcing plans for mass layoffs at the store and stated that “there is no realistic prospect for store revenues to recover to a sustainable level in the foreseeable future.”

Some of Brookfield Property Partners’ valuations even went up during the height of the pandemic.

In Las Vegas — where the unemployment rate is above 15 percent and the Strip shut down for the first time since the JFK assassination in 1963 — the company reported increases in its carrying values of its retail properties. In the six-month period ending in June, its valuation of its stake in the Grand Canal Shoppes rose to $423 million from $414 million, while its stake in the Fashion Show Las Vegas shopping center also increased in value, to $846 million from $832 million.
A Brookfield spokesperson said the change in the Las Vegas valuations “was a result of several recently signed leases at above expected rents.”
Overall, Brookfield Property Partners claims that its “proportionate fair value” of its core retail properties declined by just 3.35 percent to $34 billion over the first half of 2020, according to the company’s second-quarter supplemental report.

Compare that to U.K. real estate REIT British Land, which also reports under IFRS and marked down its U.K.-centric retail portfolio by about 26 percent to 3.9 billion pounds. Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, a Paris-based mall conglomerate that uses IFRS, wrote down the valuations of its U.S. mall portfolio by about 5 percent.
“We have made substantial progress in reaching agreements with tenants in regards to their rental arrears, and current collection rates are materially higher,” a Brookfield spokesperson said of the health of its retail portfolio since its most recent filing.

In September, Kingston told financial news publication PERE that the dire prognostications about retail mirrored what was being said in 2010, when BAM invested in retailer General Growth Properties (GGP) to pull it out of bankruptcy. That bet, Kingston said, turned out to be lucrative.
“We’re looking at this period of time the same way,” he said. “There is clearly disruption happening in the market. But ultimately we take a long-term view that high-quality real estate assets will hold their value and recover when the economy recovers.”
Flatt out investing

Toronto-based BAM is a closely held conglomerate with interests in everything from railroads to hydroelectric dams to office buildings. With about $550 billion in assets under management, there are few companies with such resources, reach and power.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the company, then known as Edper, was led by Jack Cockwell, a tough South African-born accountant. Edper almost collapsed under its debt, but survived and expanded its real estate holdings by acquiring the assets of the failed Canadian conglomerate Olympia & York in the mid-1990s. Those properties included the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan, later rebranded as Brookfield Place.

In 2002, Cockwell handed over the reins to Bruce Flatt, a fellow accountant from the Canadian province of Manitoba. That leadership transition marked the beginning of one of the world’s most aggressive investment sprees. A 2017 Forbes cover story described Flatt as the “Billionaire Toll Collector of the 21st Century.”
BAM and its subsidiaries are now among the world’s largest property owners. The investment giant has a major stake, along with the Qatar Investment Authority, in the Canary Wharf megadevelopment in London. (QIA is a substantial investor in Brookfield Property Partners, owning roughly 7 percent of the company as of the end of 2019, filings show. It is also a significant investor in the firm’s Manhattan West development, owning 44 percent.)

In 2018, Brookfield Property Partners acquired the rest of GGP for $9.25 billion in cash, making it one of the largest mall owners in the U.S. This August, Flatt disclosed that BAM had raised a record $23 billion in the second quarter, with over half of that earmarked for distressed-debt investing.
In New York, Brookfield is a commercial behemoth with a penchant for rescuing high-profile players from struggling projects: In April 2018, Brookfield Property Partners paid Somerset Partners and the Chetrit Group $165 million for a sprawling waterfront site in the South Bronx, a project for which the developers had struggled to land financing. A month later, BAM was in advanced talks to take over the ground lease at Kushner Companies’ albatross, a 41-story office and retail skyscraper at 666 Fifth Avenue; it closed on that transaction over the summer.

“We like them, we like their culture, it’s very similar to our company culture,” Charlie Kushner, founder of the firm, said of Brookfield in a 2018 interview with TRD.
All in the family
The Brookfield name is ubiquitous in U.S. real estate, but it can be difficult to discern which arm of the organization owns which property. That’s because Brookfield Property Partners often makes deals with other Brookfield entities.

(Click to enlarge)
These transactions — known as related-party deals — are sparsely disclosed in quarterly filings with securities regulators.

Take, for instance, Brookfield Property Partners’ 2018 sale of a 27.5 percent stake in a New York office portfolio for $1.4 billion to BAM.
“The only reason we did that,” Flatt told the Financial Times, speaking of the sale in a profile of the company in 2019, was that “it [BPY] needed some extra capital. And this was an easy way to do it.”
While Brookfield Property Partners disclosed the sale in its quarterly filings, it did not disclose a comprehensive list of the properties included at the time.
In response, a Brookfield spokesperson said, “the specific assets within that portfolio are well known to our investors and industry participants and easily accessible on our website and in other public-facing materials.”

In August 2019, Brookfield Property Partners sold an 81 percent stake in its 700,000-square-foot SoNo Collection mall in Norwalk, Connecticut, in a deal it said was worth $419 million.
“This is a fully stabilized mall in one of the highest-income demographics in the United States. We made a lot of development profit on this one,” Kingston said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call.
The deal was, in fact, between two related parties: Brookfield Property Partners and a BAM-controlled investment fund.
Kingston briefly mentioned this on the call, and Brookfield Property Partners did disclose a related-party transaction for a retail asset, but did not specifically identify the asset in its third-quarter report. The deal was disclosed as a related-party transaction and the asset was named, however, in Brookfield Property REIT’s annual filing.

“We have a robust process in place for managing all related-party transactions to ensure that any potential conflicts of interest are handled appropriately,” a Brookfield spokesperson said.
Such moves have attracted government attention in the past. In the summer of 2017, the SEC asked Brookfield Property Partners for clarification on a series of transactions the firm had first disclosed in its 2015 annual report.
Sixteen Brookfield senior officers invested $2 million in an entity called 9165789 Canada Inc., which held an indirect minority interest in a Downtown Los Angeles office portfolio, the company’s disclosures show. The transaction appeared to give Brookfield senior officers total control over the entity.

“The arrangement,” Brookfield said in the report, was to “align executives’ interests with those of the partnership.”
Brookfield did not disclose who these officers were or how much money they would make from the deal.
Bills, bills, bills
Asset valuation disclosures are important because they help illustrate a company’s financial health.
And understanding Brookfield Property Partners’ current health is important for its investors, because the firm has a hefty debt burden, with $9 billion of its nearly $48.9 billion in debt obligations coming due this year and in 2021, its second-quarter supplemental filing shows. (The second-quarter filings show $13.6 billion of secured debt coming due; the company said the discrepancy is because the supplemental filing only reflects the debt associated with the company’s specific interests in properties.)

The firm may be poised to take on more debt in the near future, as it and Simon Property Group are finalizing a $1.75 billion deal to buy J.C. Penney — a key anchor tenant at both operators’ malls — out of bankruptcy.
In May, BAM announced a “retail revitalization program,” which would recapitalize struggling retailers in markets where Brookfield is active. The company said it was targeting seed funds of $5 billion for the initiative.
In July, Moody’s downgraded its rating of Brookfield Property REIT (not to be confused with Brookfield Property Partners), which owns 122 retail properties across the U.S. The agency cited the REIT’s “elevated leverage entering the pandemic and the high likelihood of weakening operating income” as reasons for the downgrade, but said the high quality of its assets and the backing of its parent companies were credit positives.

As it stands, Brookfield Property Partners is far more leveraged than other major U.S. mall owners. Its debt-to-EBITDA ratio — a common measure of leverage — was 16 in the second quarter, according to Yahoo Finance. That’s compared to 7.1 for Simon Property Group and 12.2 for Taubman Centers in the same period.
Brookfield Property Partners’ access to BAM, of course, gives it firepower those rivals cannot count on. For that privilege, Brookfield Property Partners pays BAM a minimum annual fee of $50 million, plus an “equity enhancement fee,” according to its annual report.
At the September investor day, many of these issues surrounding its leverage didn’t come up. Instead, executives pitched their stock as a value opportunity. Like real estate, they argued, buying at the bottom of a cycle allows more upside than buying at the top.
“Today, our shares trade at a significant discount to the underlying value of our real estate,” Kingston said.
The value of that underlying real estate? That’s up to Brookfield.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Cash-strapped borrowers are increasingly giving keys back to lenders
Majority of nearly $3.9B in debt is backed by malls and hotels

Many commercial mortgage-backed securities borrowers that are strapped for cash are trying to turn the keys over to their mezzanine lenders.
That’s according to a recent report from data provider Trepp, which found that the borrowers behind about $3.9 billion in outstanding CMBS debt across nearly 100 loans have “indicated a willingness” to give the collateral to their mezzanine lenders.
The loans include both small-dollar and large portfolio loans with principles exceeding $200 million, according to the report.
Nearly 65 percent of the loans Trepp found were secured by regional malls and limited- and full-service hotels.
One example is the owner behind the 212-key Eastgate Holiday Inn in Cincinnati, according to the report. The borrower “delivered written notice of unwillingness to further carry the loan payments and is cooperating in friendly foreclosure filing” on the $13.1 million CMBS loan secured by the hotel, according to special servicer notes.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated a retail apocalypse that was already battering several major mall owners. Barry Sterlicht’s Starwood Capital Group recently lost control of a seven-mall portfolio after a ratings downgrade on its bonds triggered a clause allowing bondholders to take control of the properties.

The pandemic has similarly pummeled the hotel industry and driven many lenders to try to put up their hotel loans for sale.
This mall and hotel carnage prompted the proposal of a bipartisan bill in Congress that would offer relief to struggling CMBS borrowers in the form of preferred equity. But borrowers would have to be able to show they were in good standing on mortgage payments prior to the pandemic to be eligible for funds. The legislation has yet to move forward.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Gap Inc. will close 350 stores and exit malls entirely
Retailer shifts strategy to outlets and e-commerce

Another big retailer is leaving struggling malls behind.
Gap Inc. announced Thursday that it will close 350 of its stores —220 of its namesake Gap shops, and 130 Banana Republic outposts — by early 2024, ABC News reported.

Eighty percent of its remaining stores will be in off-mall locations, according to ABC News.
“We’ve been overly reliant on low-productivity, high-rent stores,” Gap CEO Mark Breitbard said during an investor call. “We’ve used the past six months to address the real estate issues and accelerate our shift to a true omni-model.”
The move comes as Gap attempts to reinvent itself, focusing predominantly on outlets and e-commerce.


But this doesn’t necessarily mark the end of Gap: The retailer plans to open 30 to 40 new Old Navy stores in the next three years, and to add around 100 new Athleta stores to its portfolio. Old Navy currently has about 1,200 stores, and Athleta has around 200.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Friendly’s files for bankruptcy, enters sales agreement
130 locations expected to remain open

The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t been friendly to Friendly’s.
The restaurant chain announced Sunday that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to a press release. The company has already entered into a sales agreement with Amici Partners Group, which invests in and runs eateries.

The sale price is less than $2 million, Restaurant Business reported. The filing isn’t expected to dramatically affect the chain’s more than 130 locations, nearly all of which should remain open. At one point, the chain had more than 500 locations.
“We believe the voluntary bankruptcy filing and planned sale to a new, deeply experienced restaurant group will enable Friendly’s to rebound from the pandemic as a stronger business, with the leadership and resources needed to continue to invest in the business and serve loyal patrons, as well as compete to win new customers over the long-term,” George Michel, CEO of FIC Restaurants, said in a statement.
This isn’t the first time the chain has entered bankruptcy: It filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2011, and ended up closing more than 60 restaurants. It exited bankruptcy in 2012, and was subsequently acquired by Dean Foods in 2016 for $155 million.

Amici Partners Group is an investment group affiliated with Brix Holdings, the parent company of chains like Red Mango and Souper Salad. The sale price
Other restaurant franchises have struggled since the pandemic hit. Among those who have filed for bankruptcy in recent months are Chuck E. Cheese parent GNC, Le Pain Quotidien and Ruby Tuesday.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
It's going to be an interesting Winter.
Bubble dining just as risky as eating indoors, experts say
Current NYC guidelines allow for just 25% capacity for fully enclosed structures

Is there much of a difference between indoor dining and those outdoor plastic bubbles that restaurants across New York now employ? Not really, it turns out.
Both options hold similar risks because they provide little airflow as people sit in close proximity to each other, according to a report on the “Today” show.

“If you’re putting together something that has a roof and four walls outside, it is called an indoor enclosure outside,” Gregg Gonsalves, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, told Today.
Under current city guidelines, tents are permitted. However, at least 50 percent of the tent’s sidewall surface area must remain open or — in full tent enclosures — occupancy limitations must be capped at 25 percent capacity, and indoor dining guidelines must be followed.
And while tents or bubbles may be more porous than walls, they still limit airflow, which is necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“I think it’s a very similar problem to indoor dining,” Colleen Kraft, associate chief medical officer at Emory University Hospital, told Today.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
The NYC Restaurant Rent Crisis Is Not Letting Up
New survey reveals 88 percent of NYC restaurants were unable to pay full rent in October
The rent crisis for NYC’s restaurants and bars is continuing to worsen. A new survey of more than 400 establishments citywide conducted by the NYC Hospitality Alliance reveals that 88 percent of restaurants could not pay full rent in October. That’s up just one percent from the survey in August, but it’s indicative of the fact that restaurants and bars are continuing to struggle with fixed costs like rent even with the re-introduction of limited indoor dining in late September.

On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that restaurants and bars in the city would have to shut on-premises dining at 10 p.m. While that doesn’t seem excessive considering the previous mandate called for outdoor dining to end at 11 p.m., and indoor at midnight, restaurateurs worry that without a reduction in the recent spike of COVID-19 cases, indoor dining could go away completely again, further hampering business. San Francisco shut down all indoor dining this week after the spike in cases there, and France and Germany have closed their restaurants and bars in response to the rise in cases there.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called for indoor dining to be reevaluated this week, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t ruled out further restrictions if cases continue to rise. The Hospitality Alliance predicts that this latest round of curfews is likely to worsen the crisis with no federal coronavirus relief in sight. The senate resumed negotiations around the relief package this week, but it remains unclear if anything will be passed before President-elect Joe Biden takes over in January.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Retailers now owe $52B in back rent
Even with a vaccine on the way, debt facing brick-and-mortar stores could be insurmountable

Brick-and-mortar stores were struggling before the pandemic. But now, the retail sector owes $52 billion in back rent.
An analysis of data from CoStar found that retailers nationwide had missed two to four months’ rent, according to Bloomberg. Questions remain about how the pandemic and changing consumer preferences will affect the sector in the long run.

Even when a Covid-19 vaccine becomes widely available, the amount of debt may be insurmountable, industry pros say. An increasing number of brick-and-mortar stores, faced with expanded online shopping choices and lingering skittishness about the virus, may pack it in for good.

“You’re going to have big bubbles that are going to be hitting next year or even in the fourth quarter,” Andy Graiser, co-president of A&G Real Estate Partners, told Bloomberg. “I’m not sure if they are going to be able to make those payments in addition to their existing rent.”
Retailers’ requests for relief continue to pour in. TIAA Real Estate Account received more than a thousand requests for deferrals from tenants, most of them from retailers.
Rent collected from retailers improved to 89 percent in October, far better than the dire numbers in April, when retail landlords collected just 54 percent of rent. Malls have lagged behind, however, collecting only 79 percent of November rent.

“It’s going to take a period of years, not months, to get through this,” Michael Hirschfeld, vice chairman at JLL, told Bloomberg.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
These are the biggest malls landlords ready to hand over to CMBS lenders
Top 10 includes properties owned by Brookfield, Simon and Westfield

As shopping centers across the country continue to struggle with a new surge in infections and lockdowns, the expiry of forbearance agreements, and secular headwinds that predated the pandemic, a growing number of mall owners are ready to hand back the keys to their lenders.
This trend has been particularly notable in the commercial mortgage-backed securities sector, where non-recourse loans are the norm and the costs of letting lenders clean up a mess are less severe.
A list of properties recently published by Trepp, based on the firm’s analysis of special servicer commentary, helps pinpoint some of the biggest CMBS loans that borrowers are ready to give up on.

Negotiations between borrowers and special servicers are a fluid process, and Trepp notes that “the data is changing everyday” and may reflect “judgment calls” and “negotiation tactics.” But a look at the largest loans on the list does still provide a sense of where mall owners are feeling the most pain.
In particular, landlords so far appear more willing to give up on malls in secondary markets. Among the top 10 properties, the largest metropolitan area represented is Philadelphia, the eighth-largest in the United States.

The country’s largest mall owners are all well-represented in the data. Brookfield Property Partners owns four of the top five; Simon Property Group has three of the top ten; and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield accounts for two more. CBL Properties, which filed for bankruptcy this month, rounds out the top 10.

These are the 10 largest CMBS-financed properties that have a high likelihood of going back to their lenders, ranked by the total initial balance of all loan pieces. (Square footage and tenant data from Trepp does not always reflect anchors that own their own space.)
1) Park Place Mall | Tucson, AZ | $199 million | Brookfield
Size: 478,000 square feet
Top tenants: Century Theatres (73,000 square feet), Total Wine & More (27,000 square feet), H&M (19,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “Borrower has now indicated that they will no longer support the property with additional infusions of equity. … Have retained counsel to dual-track foreclosure and loan restructure strategies.”

2) Mall St. Matthews | Louisville, KY | $187 million | Brookfield
Size: 670,000 square feet
Top tenants: JCPenney (166,000 square feet), Dave & Buster’s (65,000 square feet), Cinemark Theater (42,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “Borrower was unable to pay off the Loan on the Maturity Date [in June]. The Special Servicer is currently in discussion with the Borrower on a potential workout and/or deed-in-lieu.”

3) Meadows Mall | Las Vegas, NV | $164 million | Brookfield
Size: 309,000 square feet
Top tenants: Dillard’s (182,000 square feet), Macy’s (163,000 square feet), JCPenney (147,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “COVID-19 Relief Cancelled. Borrower is working with Lender towards possible solution.”
4) Westfield Countryside | Clearwater, FL (Tampa metro) | $155 million | Westfield
Size: 465,000 square feet
Top tenants: CMX Cinemas (54,000 square feet), GameTime (26,000 square feet), Forever 21 (20,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “Westfield has indicated it will no longer support the asset going forward and is cooperating in a friendly foreclosure process. … Westfield continuing to manage mall and will assist in turnover transition.”

5) RiverTown Crossings | Grandville, MI (Grand Rapids metro) | $155 million | Brookfield
Size: 634,000 square feet
Top tenants: Dick’s Sporting Goods (91,000 square feet), Celebration Cinema (86,000 square feet), Barnes & Noble (26,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “The Borrower requested to release operating expenses prior to debt service and to engage in work out discussions, including potentially deeding the property back to the Lender.”

6) Westfield Citrus Park | Tampa, FL | $147 million | Westfield
Size: 494,000 square feet
Top tenants: Regal Cinemas (88,000 square feet), Dick’s Sporting Goods (50,000 square feet), Finish Line (22,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “Westfield has indicated it will no longer support the asset going forward and is cooperating in a friendly foreclosure process. … Westfield continuing to manage mall and will assist in turnover transition.”

7) The Mall at Tuttle Crossing | Dublin, OH (Columbus metro) | $125 million | Simon
Size: 385,000 square feet
Top tenants: Finish Line (20,000 square feet), Shoe Dept. Encore (14,000 square feet), Victoria’s Secret (12,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “Legal counsel has been engaged and a receivership is being sought. Borrower has indicated they will agree to a stipulated receivership and friendly foreclosure.”

8) Southridge Mall | Greendale, WI (Milwaukee metro) | $125 million | Simon
Size: 560,000 square feet
Top tenants: Macy’s (150,000 square feet), H&M (17,000 square feet), Old Navy (13,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “Legal counsel has been engaged and a receivership is being sought. Borrower has indicated they will agree to a stipulated receivership and friendly foreclosure.”

9) Montgomery Mall | North Wales, PA (Philadelphia metro) | $100 million | Simon
Size: 1.1 million square feet
Top tenants: Macy’s (218,000 square feet), Sears (170,000 square feet), JCPenney (166,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “Borrower is unwilling to inject additional funds into loan, but is willing to manage property.”

10) Park Plaza | Little Rock, AR | $99 million | CBL
Size: 283,000 square feet
Top tenants: H&M Shoes (29,000 square feet), Forever 21 (25,000 square feet), Shoe Dept. Encore (11,000 square feet)
What the servicer says: “Borrower intends to turn over the collateral back to lender.”
 
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