Life Insurers Shine; Retailer Comings and Goings; Succession Planning (Wednesday's News & Notes)

Industry activity is picking up again. There's been a noticeable rise in the number of stories about retail real estate and retailers in recent days. With retailers, the post-holiday shopping strategic decisions about store openings and closings have begun. And there's another round of those sorts of announcements in today's links, among others.

  • Bloomberg wrote a report on a recent study from Barclays that shows that life insurers have largely avoided the losses tied to commercial real estate mortgages and CMBS. Life insurers, it seems, did not get swept up in the euphoria of the boom. Their lending volumes fell or stayed flat and they didn't get as loose with underwriting standards. That conservatism is now paying off in spades. They were equally conservative in how they invested in CMBS, staying away from the riskiest bits.
  • Walmart announced that its Sam's Club chain will close 10 locations. Trans World Entertainment is also closing stores. Trans World is closing 137 stores this quarter and expects to end the year with 553 stores nationwide.
  • New York & Company, meanwhile, has its eyes on expansion. The chain plans to roll out 20 to 25 outlet stores in response to a successful pilot program it had been running with one outlet-based location. Also in the expansion game is Chick-fil-A which intends to open 78 new stores in 2010.
  • RetailSails posted results of the first week of post holiday sales. Activity was down a bit resulting in a bit of a lull for retailers.
  • There's a lot of talk about commercial real estate being a "train wreck." But according to the Wall Street Journal, commercial real estate was a gravy train for Bank of America last year thanks to its involvement in public real estate equity offerings. The bank booked more than $200 billion in revenue on such deals last year.
  • Our news analysis this week looks at a trio of succession planning stories at U.S. retail real estate firms. Australian limited property trust Centro Properties Group also has a change at the top. There, Robert Tsenin is replacing Glenn Rufrano as the firm's global CEO. Rufrano has been lauded for the job he did in taking over as CEO amid Centro's major credit issues and finding a solution with banks that has enabled the firm to focus on property operations. He's also now on General Growth's board. That might be something to keep an eye on.
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