Displaying items by tag: malls
An event happened this week in the commercial real estate space that feels as though it might be seen as a canary in the coal mine for the forthcoming real estate crisis. The largest (and probably most famous) mall in the US—Mall of America—just fell behind on its $1.4 bn mortgage payments. The owner of the mall, which features over 500 stores and a theme park, missed its mortgage payments in both April and May, reports the Financial Times via Wells Fargo documentation. The owner, called TripleFive Group, has reported to Wells Fargo that it has suffered hardship because of COVID. Presently, nationwide about 1 in 5 loans bundled in CMBS are now on “watch lists”.
FINSUM: For context here, Macerich, which is one of the biggest mall owners in the country, disclosed that is has only collected 18% of rent it is owed in May.
If you have been investing in REITs over the last few years, one of the key driving mantras has been the idea that one should move away from brick and mortar-oriented retail REITs and toward those that are more ecommerce-focused. In other words, buy REITs focused on warehouses, not those on malls. However, that arithmetic might be changing, as the big boom in warehousing is now facing headwinds because of the trade war. Recently was the first time in years that “the market didn’t lease to its full potential”, said a trade group in the space. The sector is “uniquely exposed to trade activity and manufacturing activity, which are very much impacted by the tariffs”.
FINSUM: To us this seems more likely to prove a short-term headwind than a long-term issue given the driving force behind warehouse growth is not actually tied to any trade policy, but a broader change in consumption patterns.
REITs are in an interesting position right now given the downward rate environment. One on the one hand, that makes them look better, but given that rates are being driven by economic fears, it might not be good after all. However, one area of REITs looks pretty attractive—mall REITS. Yes, that might sound insane given the state of brick and mortar retail, but that is exactly the point. Expectations are so low, that the bar for prices to rise is quite low.
FINSUM: “A” malls, or REITs with top producing properties seem to the best bet, as they are better capitalized to upgrade their stores and have the most resilient locations.
REITs are an interesting sector at the moment. The real estate sector is obviously past peak, and rates are rising, a double whammy for REITs. The initial reaction for many would be “stay away”, however, there is some value to be had. One interesting area is in regional mall REITs, which have actually outperformed the S&P 500 this year. There is a lot of variation in quality between different regional malls, however. In particular, the performance is bifurcating between the very best malls and the rest, with the former thriving, and the rest lagging.
FINSUM: The US has 1,000 malls and some estimates say there is only enough demand to solidly support around 300. The ones that stick around, particularly the top 20, will likely do very well.
Retail has been doing great lately and may be poised to continue its gains. However, the best way to play the sector might not be to buy retail stocks. Instead, consider buying real estate stocks that would gain from retail’s success. With that in mind, Barron’s has run a piece choosing seven real estate stocks that will benefit from retail’s growth: Simon Property Group, Link REIT, Brixmor Property Group, Public Storage, and Mid-America Apartment Communities.
FINSUM: Make no mistake, these are deeply contrarian bets given the challenges mall and other retail REITs are facing. That said, if the strategy works, it may do so in a big way.