據知情人士透露，專業銀行PJ Solomon與多個商場業主進行了探討，內容涉及實施此類策略來幫助陷入困境的零售商Forever 21 Inc.。這種策略可能會成為該行業未來交易的范例。
對于經歷了一波又一波閉店潮的商場經營者來說，目前的局勢非常嚴峻。Coresight Research的數據顯示，僅在今年，美國就有7500多家零售店面歇業，讓新開店面數量黯然失色，例如連鎖店Payless Inc.和Gymboree Corp. 都已經停業。
商場所有者一直都愿意嘗試各類手段，包括直接收購破產租戶，以避免店面出現閑置的情況。但這種方式在近期只出現過一次。三年前，美國兩家最大的商場運營商Simon Property Group Inc.和 General Growth Properties Inc.加入了一個收購了Aeropostale Inc.的財團，保留了這家服裝連鎖公司的200多個店面。
行業組織Turnaround Management Association的首席執行官斯科特·斯圖爾特稱：“除非業主全盤改換其地產的用途，否則他們仍需盡可能多地從零售租戶那里賺錢。如果他們能夠以創新的方式保持店面的經營，倒是可以打造一個雙贏的局面。”斯科特有著30年的企業重組工作經驗。
去年收購General Growth Properties的PJ Solomon和Brookfield Property Partners LP拒絕置評，而來自于Simon Property Group和Forever 21的代表也未回復要求評論的請求。
在7月31日召開的第二季度營收投資者電話會議中，Simon Property Group的首席執行官大衛·西蒙承認，公司已經在考慮開展更多類似于收購Aeropostale的投資活動。
Mall landlords accustomed to offering rent reductions to ailing retailers are mulling a new strategy to bolster their own flagging industry: Positioning themselves as lenders to tenants having difficulty staying afloat.
Boutique bank PJ Solomon has organized discussions with several mall owners about pursuing such a strategy with troubled retailer Forever 21 Inc., according to people with knowledge of the matter, in what could serve as a model for future transactions within the sector.
The talks have centered on converting rent and other liabilities into secured debt that could give distressed companies some breathing room to stay out of court, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
If a retailer later goes bust, the arrangement could give landlords a stronger say in the restructuring process because lenders get higher priority in a bankruptcy, they said. The landlords potentially could use their preferred status to bid for assets, swapping their unpaid claims for ownership.
For mall operators dealing with wave after wave of closings, the situation is critical. More than 7,500 U.S. retail storefronts have shuttered this year alone, according to Coresight Research, dwarfing openings as chains such as Payless Inc. and Gymboree Corp. ceased operations.
Landlords are faced with either slashing rents or dealing with empty properties that don’t have ready occupants. Less than half of U.S. malls are likely to survive the industry’s disruption, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Lindsay Dutch.
Reducing retail vacancies
Mall owners have been willing to consider a wider range of options, including outright purchases of bankrupt tenants, to help keep stores from going dark. That’s been done only once before in recent history. Three years ago, America’s two largest mall operators—Simon Property Group Inc. and General Growth Properties Inc.—were part of a group that bought Aeropostale Inc., preserving more than 200 of the clothing chain’s stores.
“Unless the landlords are going to repurpose their properties altogether, they still have to capture the greatest value they can from retail tenants,” said Scott Stuart, chief executive officer of industry group Turnaround Management Association, who has worked on corporate restructurings for 30 years. “If they can get creative about keeping the stores open, it may be a win-win situation.”
PJ Solomon and Brookfield Property Partners LP—which purchased General Growth Properties last year— declined to comment, while representatives for Simon Property Group and Forever 21 didn’t respond to requests seeking comment.
On a July 31 conference call with investors to discuss second-quarter earnings, Simon Property Group Chief Executive Officer David Simon acknowledged the company has considered pursuing more investments like the one in Aeropostale.
“We certainly have the ability to help beyond what you might do on the leases and become an investor in a distressed situation,” Simon said. “So we have kind of the ability, together or individually or some combination thereof, to look at becoming more than just a real estate player, but a buyer of these brands.”
Their diverse portfolio of tenants gives real estate investment trusts—REITs—particular insight into which merchants could make successful investments, according to Bloomberg Intelligence’s Dutch.
“They will be selective when they make an investment,” Dutch said. “They won’t just go after every failing retailer.”