“A management team that remains prisoner of its failed strategy that started with the acquisition of Westfield.”
By Nick Corbishley, for WOLF STREET:
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), which, in addition to many properties in Europe, owns 27 malls in the the US, including the upscale Westfield San Francisco Center, reported a loss of €7.6 billion for 2020, after large write-downs. Its net rental income dropped by 28%.
The company, Europe’s biggest property REIT, is heavily leveraged and is in all the wrong markets at the wrong time. Besides its exposure to the ravaged brick-and-mortar retail sector, URW has a portfolio of airport shopping centers, office towers, hotels and conference halls, all of which were hammered by lockdowns, closures, travel restrictions, and cancellations.
The company’s shares responded to the news by sliding 12% on Thursday, to €57 a piece. They are now down 55% year over year and 78% from a peak of €257 in February 2015.
Now URW faces the challenge of reducing its debt in the midst of a global economic crisis. It has axed stock dividends for the next three years. It also tried to pull off a €3.5 billion rights issue last October. But that plan was shelved after a large bloc of shareholders led by French billionaire Xavier Niel and Unibail’s former CEO Leon Bressler voted down the proposal. Bressler blasted the rights issue as “a misguided act by a management team that remains prisoner of its failed strategy that started with the acquisition of Westfield.”
Unable to raise fresh capital, the company is trying to sell off a chunk of its assets before 2022, as values in the market are tumbling. On Wednesday, it announced that it will try to dump its U.S. properties that it had acquired in 2018 from Australian mall operator Westfield. In effect, it placed a €16 billion bet on a sector that was already grappling with the threat posed by e-commerce.
This left it with 27 malls in the US — 16 in California, three in Maryland and two a piece in Illinois, Florida and New York City, where it owns the Westfield World Trade Center. It also has 10 shopping centers in some of America’s biggest airport terminals, including JFK, LAX, Miami International Airport and Chicago O’Hare. It also aims to dispose of €3.2 billion in European assets by 2022.
The company’s financial report makes for painful reading, even by current standards: in 2020, URW’s malls were shut for 93 days. There were only 70 days in the entire year when they were not subject to some form of restriction. Even today, the company says that roughly half of its centers remain closed.
Headquartered in Paris, URW owns 40 assets in France, including malls, airport retail centers, conference centers, office complexes and even the odd hotel or two, such as the Salomon de Rothschild in Paris. Its portfolio also includes 9 malls and one office complex in Germany; 8 malls in Spain; 6 in Poland; 4 a piece in the Netherlands and Sweden; 3 in the Czech Republic; 2 in Austria; and one a piece in Italy, Belgium and Denmark. In the UK it owns four London malls.
In 2019, the total value of all of URW’s assets was €65 billion; by the end of 2020, it had fallen 11.6% to €56 billion. Revenues crumbled as its tenants’ sales plunged 37%. In Continental Europe, the group’s revenues fell 19%. In the US they tumbled 28%. In the UK, which went through two full-blown national lockdowns last year (and is now on its third), they plunged by 49.3%.
The UK’s brick-and-mortar retail sector was already deep in crisis before Covid. The lockdowns have merely intensified a shift from brick-and-mortar retail to e-commerce that was already well under way while also leaving a trail of bankruptcies in their wake. Long-struggling retail groups such as Arcadia and Debenhams were tipped over the edge. They behind left an even larger hole in the UK’s already decimated retail property landscape.
With many of its tenants unable to open their shops and eviction moratoriums in force across its international markets, URW suspended rent collection for some of 2020. By the end of the year, it had collected around 80% of rents and had extended just over €400 million of rent relief to its tenants.
“These negotiations are typically not about permanently changing lease structures or changing the basis for rent calculations (e.g., replacing Minimum Guaranteed Rent with Sales Based Rent only leases), but rather focus on providing appropriate rent relief to achieve a fair burden sharing,” it said.
URW is one of a number of large retail property landlords that refuses to give in to pressure from tenants to move to sales-based leasing. That would further erode the value of its properties, which in turn would make it even more difficult to continue servicing its debt, said Colm Lauder, a real estate equity analyst at Goodbody.
“If you are servicing debt, you need a clear income profile. If your rental income has a much smaller fixed component, far more significant variable component, naturally, your debt will be more expensive, more complex or not available at all,” Lauder said.
That would be a major problem for URW, given the size of its debt load, which reached €26.4 billion ($32 billion) last year. This is in large part a legacy of its purchase of Westfield’s US and UK assets, for $16 billion. The acquisition significantly expanded the company’s global reach but it also increased its exposure to brick-and-mortar retail at the worst possible time, when the sector was on the cusp of a deep structural downturn — particularly in the U.S. and the UK, the two markets it had just expanded into. By Nick Corbishley, for WOLF STREET.
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Reminded me of a Greek who bought a large number of oil tankers left to rot at the dockside, post WW2, who then went on to become one of the worlds wealthiest. Food for thought?
Chris..there is an Immense Financial Difference when one is Buying at the Top or Bottom of any Market..lol true..? aloha amigo
There is a pretty good pattern of 10 year annualized stock market returns in the 12% – 15% range followed by 10 year annualized returns in the negative 2 – 5%. We have had our ten plus fat years. Too many signs around of top for me. Don’t expect retail to get out the door first.
How do you gauge the effect of the currency exchange? If the dollar continues to weaken that puts more pressure on US revenues. Is Brexit a concern? Vornado wants to withhold cash flows on Trumps two largest properties, probably related to where they think the money is going, (lawsuits) and that it won’t help them in bankruptcy. For the US malls its a question of how they too are allocating cash flows.
Start of great reset everything is inflated what’s next bonds stocks residential already deflating cash this is a disaster 50 years in the making make sure to secure your bug out place best wishes to all
I agree Ron
Right on Ron.
Btw, I just bought my first silver bullion. The real stuff, not scrip.
Agreement all around.. Great to see real comments from real people. Only one way to mass produce nanotech (nanotech synthesis, “wet chemistry”) and that’s with silver! Always a pleasure to visit Wolf, thanks!
hate to say it’s never to early
but now you have robinhooders going after it
I’m happy with my holdings and will wait
getting physical is only going to get worse
Bought my first couple dozen ounces earlier this month. Gonna keep buying a bit every paycheck as long as it stays low. Probably a better investment than my 401k at this point.
When other assets deflate the dollar initially inflates during a deflationary cycle. Money is destroyed by debt defaults and recession/depression. Less money/liquidity mean a stronger dollar.
What a nightmare. Just throw in the keys and walk away. Take up sell hotdogs at a hotdog stand. Maybe they could manage something like that and do it right.
Instead of a hotdog stand why not instead sell bananas at an Afghanistan banana stand? That’s how Robert Redford did it in the movie “Hot Rock” released in 1972.
Who’s going to count how many bananas are sold? Easy: Hey Mr. Taliban tally me banana.
(Apologies to Harry Belafonte.)
Great one BD!
Westfield malls. The epitome of naff.
I’ve seen White City and Stratford (even had some consultancies in Stratford), and this was just dire. Like, what you would *not* want the world to look like.
Well, these are spaces way to big or unsuitable for residential conversion so I can only just imagine some industrial scale hydroponic farms once the owners drop the jingle bells.
Stan, I live in the very city where Westfield made it’s fortune catering to what we call “bogans”. Outer suburbs folk who wear moccasins (!) to any social gathering. Yeah, naff is on the way there, but you ain’t seen true naff until you go to Fountain Gate shopping centre on a Saturday morning.
And Kath and Kim!!
“Well, these are spaces way to big or unsuitable for residential conversion ”
Perhaps they are not “way too big” to solve San Francisco’s massive homeless problem. For instance:
“ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Karleen Smith used to work at the Macy’s in Landmark Mall, putting price tags on summer dresses, housewares and the latest styles of shoes.
On Saturday, Ms. Smith, 57, returned to her former store, not as an employer or a customer, but as a resident.
The former Macy’s in this vacant shopping mall outside Washington has been transformed into a homeless shelter.
“It’s weird to be moving into this building. I used to work here,” she said inside the shelter’s common room, which was once the men’s department. “It’s called survival.”
It’s obscene that hard working people have been thrown out on the street for no good reason. It’s beyond evil.
You can thank Jerome Powell, and Janet Yellen, and Ben Bernanke, and Alan Greenspan. They’ve destroyed shelter with their perverted monetary policies.
Who threw them out? Look at the elites who manage the financial and social engineering, they’re the guilty ones.
“It’s weird to be moving into this building. I used to work here,”
Upsetting to the extreme. I can hardly find words. This is so sadistic. Dear leaders are pushing the faces of working people into the mud then laugh about it all the way to the stock exchange.
The US has a very bloody labor history which no one wants to repeat, so US workers have been passive for decades. We have taken blow after blow – and just took it.
I don’t think people will remain passive for much longer.
I don’t think they are passive, I think most are just confused as to what has actually happened and how to fix it.
What a nightmare. Just throw in the keys and walk away. Take up selling hotdogs at a hotdog stand. Maybe they could manage something like that and do it right.
Or Bluth Frozen Banana stands.
Eat the banana, spray the remaining bruised and blackened skins with glitter, display them under your shingle and pronounce ‘All is Golden!’.. and wait.
Saps & suckers will always buy the cheap shiny shite, hands down!
Yet, the Westfield mall in Santa Clara is going gangbusters. They are catering in part to Asian customers. That is a valuable property, pandemic or not.
How do you know it’s “going gangbusters?” Did you see the revenue figures?
The Westfield Oakridge Mall on Blossom Hill Rd in San Jose, CA looked real lively, most of the spaces had stores. But this was before the Covid-19 pandemic; not sure about these days.
Don’t know who owns the paper but somebody (bank) is going to get kicked in the shorts……and they are not the only ones……as all commercial real estate gets revalued.
Of course in the old days this would have caused a run on the banks …..today it will cause the printers to earn more overtime.
While the dolts who made the brainless loans get promoted…….and they wonder why this country is run by a pack of monkeys. Daddy and Mommy keep helping junior who in some cases are their daughters out of all their messes.
I liked it better when it was just Macy’s and the Emporium, no mall, back in the late 50’s.
It got too big and felt dangerous, I hated going there. I’m not surprised
Felt dangerous! The crime that must not speak its name.
There is a Westfields Mall about 3 mi from my house. I drive by it every day. The parking lot is practically empty most of the time. I’ve been there once in the last 4 years. Got some Thai take-out at the food court. Spent $7.50. I’m expecting for the whole mall to go bankrupt, and turned into residential housing.
This the Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda? I worked on that deal’s securitization years ago. At the time, I couldn’t believe people were buying bonds based on this one property…
There were a couple murders right in the main parking lot in front of the entrance to the mall. Great for business.
We will know its the bottom when Sam Zell (AKA the grave dancer) moves in to buy.
I remember Sam Zell was selling properties years ago. I decided to sell mine, too. I was early to get out, and so was he, but better early than late.
EXACTLY! I have said this many times and people ignore it. Sam Zell has the best timing in the industry because he’s greedy but not a pig, and he’s PATIENT. I always watch what he’s doing and what he has to say.
Well, ya gots to smoke em if ya got em! Right?
You would think the US Congress was running the company…..
Yay, a Nick post.
“Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield…owns 27 malls in the the US…is heavily leveraged and is in all the wrong markets at the wrong time.”
Tragic. Sounds like a comic-opera. Real pain, though, for some folks.
I can’t wait for the movie. But only for at-home viewing, as there won’t be any movie theaters left.
Agree that this stinks to high heaven. Read some of these names in the article. Even the name on the Paris Hotel must be up to no good albeit from his tomb. Something in the likes of many middle and lower tier investments are about to be vaporized perhaps?
Perhaps a European Central Bank give away for failing to raised fresh capital? I just think when billions and billions of the funny money is funneled upward again there will be more unemployment, robbed pensions, empty savings for the commoners.
Pulp mills have been shuttered all over the World. One was shut near my home town, about 10-12 years ago. Reason given? Poor economics. At the time everyone thought it was the end of the town. Not only did no one miss it, the economy didn’t miss a beat. I just drove by the old mill site today where it is being stripped and scrapped. Lots and lots of good paying industrial jobs taking it apart. A special landfill was found to accept some of the waste.
The land will be repurposed.
The malls are no different. Life goes on. Companies that make poor decisions, or find themselves out of step with trends and conditions, suffer the consequences. Kind of like Betamax.
So the export of good paying industrial jobs means nothing? The necessity of importing EVERYTHING one used to make means nothing? Is it possible the wealth is being burned off and everyone will be left with nothing other than a Chinese landlord? Funny how ones fantasy can get in the way of reality.
In late 80’s I worked on developing “as built” drawing for an old boise cascade cardboard plant. After drawings it was taken apart piece by piece and shipped go China for reassembly and use. Lots of value in old paper / pulp mills and equip, mech elect inside.
Not so much in old malls. Prior to early 90’s, depending upon location the fireproofing on the steel structure elements still contained asbestos in the products they sprayed on. Today it’s fine if left undisturbed, but try demo and you have to do abatement which drives cost up and value down. Same with old floor tile, pipe insulation, ect. Depending upon age of structure. Often cheaper to push it down and haul to special disposal landfills then do any salvage.
The last time I went to Westfield San Francisco was about 4 months ago? There were very few stores operating. The Lego store was one of them, and then there were also a number of clothing stores open for business. The food court also required people to undergo a temperature check before they could go in, and I think that might have deterred a number of customers.
Shake Shack was supposed to open last April? It wasn’t open when I was there. I believe that since then, only one store has opened, and it’s Jeff Bezos’ new Amazon Go store at the basement level.
The SF Chronicle, a failed institution if there ever was one, trumpeted not only all of the “Revitalized Market Street,” year after year, but howled about how great the new mall would be and in Oct 2019 this gleaming shiny promise: “If you’re a San Franciscan whose fast food loyalties happen don’t align with the In-N-Out fanaticism of the Californian majority, you’re in luck. If, say, a certain New York City-based chain is more your jam, you’ll be happy to hear that a new Shake Shack location is coming to San Francisco’s Westfield Center at Fifth and Market in 2020!”
I hear tell that all that Russia Russia Russia nonsense was created out of a pile S shack wrappers ..
Haven’t been at a mall in about forever, but I used to like to hang out @ Orange Julius or Hot Dog on a Stick and watch cougars go through their paces in their natural habitat @ Wild Pair, on the prowl for a matched pair of pumps.
Aside from food & drink, what could you buy @ a mall that you couldn’t do online?
I turned on CNBC the other day just to hear what these losers were talking about. They were stealing my thunder again because they have nothing intelligent to talk about.
Becky Q started talking to the guest Sam Zell about the fact that the music is still playing, and she asked the guest when the music would stop playing. He didn’t know. But they agreed that when the music stops, no one will be dancing anymore.
This is what they call a financial news network. Total garbage and propaganda.
Maybe the music Sam is hearing is jingle mail!
I managed global real securities. We owned Westfield and unibail took us out. We couldn’t sell our stock fast enough. Our peers and the sell side loved the real. Global scale, lower cost of capital , sell assets…. what could go wrong? The problem in real estate circles is they love the deal and they’re good at. But they can’t see around the corner. Like last year when Simon initially bid 50% premium for taubman. Why? You’re the only bidder for their 21 assets. Again, rational were same reasons. These real estate guys love the art of the deal. Simon will fare better, small deal but bad capital allocation. The mall is dead and declines in values will continue.
No kidding! I was just thinking to myself that I want to meet the clever fellows who SOLD Westfield to Unibail in 2018.
Sam said the economy was great except for a few sectors. WTF is this guy smoking?
He is right. Only a few sectors are in trouble. Air travel, B&M, offices, in person entertainment and restaurants. Problem is the are in gigantic, near death trouble and they are not an insignificant part of the economy.
“the upscale Westfield San Francisco Center”?
OK, let’s take a trip there. BART and streetcar accessible. How about driving? Absolutely nowhere to park except the Fifth and Mission garage.
Hide everything in your car to not be one of the 35,000 plus yearly car burglary statistics, pre-pandemic. Avoid the staircases full of feces and junkies shooting up. Walk up Fifth through the passed out bums and the thieves market where you can buy what was stolen from your car the last time you came to downtown. A few deaths on Market Street this month.
Once safely in the mall, you are treated to an opportunity to buy the same stuff sold everywhere else, or, online.
History of “upscale”, 26 June 2017
“A mall in downtown San Francisco was temporarily put on lockdown Sunday evening following a massive brawl that left a police officer injured and several people detained. The San Francisco Police Department received multiple 911 calls at around 6.43pm about a violent melee at Westfield Mall located at Market and Fifth streets. ”
“Cellphone videos recorded by bystanders at the scene and later shared on social media captured people running in panic and screaming inside the mall crammed with shoppers and dozens of responding police officers.”
At least they rode mass transit to get there.
I laughed when I read the San Francisco Westfield being described as “upscale.” It’s actually quit dangerous. Mostly a hangout for the violent children of crack ho’s. The shoplifting rate is astronomically high. Sad for the struggling shop owners locked into high rents with personal guarantees.
SF is probably doomed …. for a while. Uniqlo’s 3 storey store at Union Square San Francisco will close March 31.
That is BIG NEWS for the city.
So you-re saying that spending over one billion, yes with a b, on the recently completed expansion at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose might have been a bit optimistic?
Perhaps. Anyway, I live close to SF and rarely venture to San Jose. I’ve never been to Westfield Valley Fair :) Maybe people still go to malls down south? Or perhaps that’s sarcasm that I detected from your post?
Asians seem to still be power-shoppers. Westfield Santa Anita in an Asian-demographic area of southern Cal is still doing very well.
SF is 34.3% Asian. But then again it’s a small city.
My household is 50% Asian. And the boss has stopped going to Westfield’s and other malls years ago :-]
Asians are big online shoppers, according to my sample with a sample size of n = 1.
And for me, the internet is a godsend. I always hated shopping. Pre-ecommerce, I used mail-order back in the day to buy stuff. And I haven’t been to a mall in probably a decade. They’re just such a waste of time.
Maybe it’s time to replant some fruit orchards.
just sain ..
Don’t forget “Just one week after making the decision to close its Union Square store, b8ta CEO Vibhu Norby announced via Twitter on Wednesday that the Hayes Valley store is now closed “indefinitely” as well due to a store manager having a gun pointed at him during a robbery.”
Excuse, real reason is likely un-profitability.
The ESF is probably why the stock market has not collapsed, at least as to its companies that are in trouble, over leveraged, and unlikely to survive. See “Janet Yellen’s Slush Fund to Meddle in Markets Got a $490 Billion Haircut” in wall street on parade’s site.
That is an excellent read which very will explains two card montie going on.
I suspect that Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) is going to take the proverbial bath here… but someone is going to make a pretty penny in the end. If there are any retail spaces that I would like to acquire for dirt cheap going forward then I can hardly think of better than…
“27 malls in the US — 16 in California, three in Maryland and two a piece in Illinois, Florida and New York City, where it owns the Westfield World Trade Center. It also has 10 shopping centers in some of America’s biggest airport terminals, including JFK, LAX, Miami International Airport and Chicago O’Hare.”
Those are not bad states to have a retail presence in following the ecommerce Armageddon. But quite frankly I would be far more happy with just the airport terminal shopping centers if those can be broken out. Sooner or later (probably later) the travelling public will be travelling again. They have both money and time to kill.
Time is the key. If the fall to the bottom takes as long as the extreme bailouts from 2009 that continue with bubble vengeance today, then it might be a long while before the bottom to be reached.
It takes a long time to clean out a filthy house.
It’s fun to be a armchair financier especially the the small oven backed cake type. But to dream of riches for others who all ready control financial world by their own design is folly. Why dream for these European and most likely North American bankers and their offspring who are the speculators any more good fortune when it is a clear and present theft of the middle and lower tier investment communities which comprise of hedges, pensions, certain stocks, bank rolls so forth?
This is a confidence game here in America called Bunco.
A cheap swindle played by desperate billionaire card holders.
The little guy will lose much by this properties swindle.
They own 4 shopping areas in the Netherlands. One is IMHO a complete dud (because it was build after mall retail went to heaven). One i don’t know but the other two are the kind of places that will prosper if B&M mall retail still exist in 20 years. I think 20% of mall retail will stay B&M so IMHO they have future.
Watching the bond market in cold sunny London Saturday 13.
USA 10 year @ 1.21%
UK 10 Year @ 0.525%
The year of the OX – are we seeing a turn in the trend Wolf?
US 30 Year hitting 2%
How is it that the UK can borrow money at a lower rate that the US?
Because their printing is nowhere near as deranged as ours.
The German 10 yr bund is -.43 and their 30 yr is barely positive at .07. Exporter
Japan 10 yr at .06 Exporter
China 10 yr at 3.28 Exporter
There is a lot of money flying around selling and buying fiat trying to arbitrage bond purchases and sales.
It must require fast smart computers with collusive inside gambling to get it right.
There is no rationale for California to force every community in the state to discard zoning and accept high density housing when the “housing crisis,” caused by low interest rates and so many people wanting to live here, could be alleviated by converting malls, high rise condos and offices into homeless housing.
The defunct Sears near me is bring converted into high-density housing because of the California law you mentioned. My area has sky-high prices and constant demand for new housing, so repurposing a big dead chunk of commercial space is just a mater of choosing which proposal.
The old, large mall near me is being torn down as I type. Just two years ago they were going to redo the entire area, light rail stop, etc. The rail will still go there due to Fed $$ and local$$s. The plan is for office, residential, and some medical.
The old, smaller mall near me is dead in the water. By the time people venture out again, it will be too late. Both Sears and Costco closed at one end. There is a ratty Walmart at the other end with low-end clothes/shoe shops between. This mall has a current light rail stop.
The 1960s through the 1980s will be torn down and new will eventually be built in it’s place.
From the use of old large mall and old small mall i conclude that there is also a new mall. Maybe even more. But we are in a situation that 80% of mall retail goes web or even cloud (like with music, video and games) so seeing only a third of malls survive seem logical.
In spite of his comments to the contrary, look for Powell to copy the European CBs and push interest rates into negative territory to increase money velocity, and stop people from hoarding currency. If this creates a bank run they will step in and stop the run by limiting cash withdrawals to $300/week.
You can put this prediction in the bank.
Not sure about the bank run but i agree that rates are going lower. The Fed has not hit their 2% inflation target in years so why would they in 2021? The USA has bad demographics favoring bonds over stocks and technology will continue to bring prices down. As The Economist predicted years ago we (the USA) are turning Japanese…
I think they are engineering a one off 30% inflation bubble. Needed to solve the economic mess after Covid
>…and technology will continue to bring prices down.
Exactly, technology is deflationary.
The Lowy family dumped all their US and UK Westfields onto the Europeans for AUD33 billion in mid 2018. The family got to keep $3billion.
Way back in the late 1990s I had the opportunity to peer over their ‘back fence’. Goodness me. The rich ARE different.
Network Capitol Funding is adverising 1.75 interest rates on a 15 year mortgage. Is this for real?? Or is there some fine print I’m not aware of. Like some hidden points or fees.
No wonder the price of houses are going up like a rocket ship with no end in sight.
Hyperdeflation in housing coming soon. my friends who are clueless about monetary science are so happy with their houses of course they are taking money out like an ATM machine
Money dies in housing
Oops meant hyperinflation
If I was Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) I would transition all the properties to dual use spaces. Live and operate spaces. Loft space for sleeping, back kitchens that lead out to back retail hallways. Unleash the work from home entrepreneurs. :)