Mall companies fall as Sears announces plans to close stores


Shares of mall companies slumped after Sears Holdings Corp. announced plans to shutter 150 stores as part of an effort to turn around the ailing chain.

A Bloomberg index of regional-mall landlords fell as much as 2.8 percent, the largest drop in almost two months. CBL & Associates Properties Inc. had the biggest decline among companies in the index, falling as much as 4.1 percent, and Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. mall owner, dropped as much as 3.2 percent. By comparison, the broader Bloomberg real estate investment trust index, which also includes companies that own properties such as office buildings and hotels, was little changed.

The move by Sears is the latest sign that many retailers are losing ground in the battle to retain shoppers that are increasingly turning to the internet. Macy’s, the largest U.S. department-store chain, Wednesday cut its earnings outlook and said it would eliminate 6,200 jobs, and Kohl’s said holiday-season sales dropped more than it expected, leading it to cut its fiscal 2016 earnings forecast.

Shares of mall owners tend to be hurt by bad news from struggling retailers, said Alexander Goldfarb, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill & Partners. Still, the best properties are insulated from problems plaguing department stores as landlords add restaurants and other higher-quality tenants to replace failing merchants, he said.

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The stock selloff “is a knee jerk,” Goldfarb said in an interview. “I don’t think anybody is surprised that some department store chains are having challenges. Some retailers are having challenges, and others are doing well.”

Of the 68 stores Macy’s said it’s closing as part of previously announced cutbacks, 16 are located in malls owned by REITs, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. General Growth Properties Inc., the second-largest U.S. mall landlord, owns five of the properties with Macy’s closings, the analysts, led by Richard Hill, said in a note to clients today. CBL, a Chattanooga, Tennessee-based operator, also owns five of the affected properties.

An analysis by Morgan Stanley shows significant overlap between Macy’s and Sears, with 45 percent of REIT-owned malls having both as a tenant.

The mall REITs have “very little exposure,” to the closings list provided by Macy’s, Evercore ISI analysts Steve Sakwa and Samir Khanal said in a note yesterday. “We expect the redevelopment of the boxes to be a source of external growth.”