Landlords are practically giving away shopping malls

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As the rise of e-commerce changes the retail landscape, landlords of malls are highly motivated to sell lower-producing operations in order to focus on the most profitable ones.

Finding buyers for the properties is challenging due to a limited number of investors who have interest in purchasing a mall that is on the decline, and even fewer who are willing to pay the current asking prices.

According to the latest data from Real Capital Analytics Inc., only approximately $3 billion of retail real estate was bought and sold in April, a 27 percent decrease from a year earlier and the lowest monthly number since February 2013.

In an effort to update their retail centers, mall giants such as Simon Property Group Inc. and GGP Inc. are investing billions to create customer experiences that cannot be found online and remodeling the vast spaces vacated by failing department stores. However, some lower-performing malls are not worth the renovation investment.

“It’s a tough environment. I don’t think anybody really anticipated the decline of the department store to happen as quickly as it did,” said Joe Coradino, chief executive officer of Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns 21 malls in the Mid-Atlantic region. “The sellers are clearly on their knees.”

Bloomberg reported, “For all but the best centers, the number of buyers — and the group of lenders willing to fund such acquisitions — has dwindled to a trickle. The handful of investors that are active in the space are demanding steep discounts to take on the risks of shaky tenant rosters, falling foot traffic and an antiquated business model.”

Despite the prospect of settling for a low price, landlords hoping to offload low-performing properties are unlikely to get a higher yield at a later date, according to Haendel St. Juste, an analyst at Mizuho Securities USA LLC. Values are expected to be even lower in the future, he noted.

“If you’re thinking about selling an asset down the road,” he said, “it would be wise to think about pulling it forward and selling now.”

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