Large property owners are looking to unload more malls through sales or by allowing lenders to take over, brushing aside a recovery in the shopping-center business as more Americans get vaccinated.
Global mall operator Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield , for one, sold three U.S. malls last year. The Paris-based company intends to further shrink its current 25-property portfolio in the U.S. to lower its debt levels, executives said during an earnings call last week.
One of Europe’s largest commercial real-state firms, Unibail-Rodamco purchased Westfield Group in 2018 for nearly $16 billion. The mall operator acquired 33 U.S. properties, including high-profile malls such as the Westfield World Trade Center in Manhattan and Westfield Garden State Plaza in nearby Bergen County, N.J.
The company’s recent retreat in the U.S. shows how the pandemic is further dividing the retail real-estate world.
Owners of top-tier Class A malls are doing all right and collecting top-of-the-market rents. These more modern, higher quality properties feature fine-dining restaurants and luxury-goods shops. They are usually located in affluent neighborhoods, where residents have ridden out the pandemic with their jobs intact and are eagerly spending again.