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Retailer roundup

HoustonMarble Slab Creamery Inc., a franchiser of gourmet ice cream stores, recently reached its 200-store mark. Although the company has business requests on file from 20 countries worldwide, it had long practiced a conservative development philosophy of “controlled growth.” This meant no development outside of the United States — until now. Marble Slab Creamery is planning to open its first international store in Puerto Rico in early 2002. The privately owned company currently operates in 21 states and expects to achieve its 500-store goal by 2005.


Paris — A definitive agreement has been agreed upon for New York-based Insignia Financial Group Inc. to acquire commercial real estate services firm Groupe Bourdais. The initial amount of the transaction is $30.7 million to be paid in cash. An additional sum in the amount of $19 million is to be paid over a three-year period, depending on the performance of Groupe Bourdais. Bourdais will join Insignia's executive committee and the board of the company's European operations as well as take on a new name, Insignia Bourdais. “We have been searching for ways to better serve our clients' worldwide requirements and take advantage of growing globalization of business,” says Jean-Claude Bourdais, chairman of Bourdais. The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter. In its fiscal year ended March 31, the firm's revenues totaled $46.6 million, according to SiteNet.

TorontoRioCan Real Estate Investment Trust and New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based REIT Kimco Realty Corp. are joining forces to acquire and develop projects throughout Canada. Each company will commit $50 million to projects to be sourced and managed by RioCan and are subject to review and approval by a joint oversight committee of RioCan and Kimco management personnel. Combined, the two firms' portfolios comprise approximately 650 shopping centers for a total of 90 billion sq. ft. of retail space. Company executives say arrangements are conditional upon completion of definitive documentation.

Zaandam, The NetherlandsBompreco, Royal Ahold's Brazilian subsidiary, announced the acquisition of five hypermarkets from its French competitor Carrefour. Operating under the Stoc banner, each shop measures 40,000 sq. ft. Combined, the markets generate $42 million. Bompreco is planning on remodeling the hypermarkets this fall into its “Hiper Bompreco” format, which will offer 30,000 food items and general merchandise. With the completion of this transaction, Bompreco will own 26 hypermarkets, 82 supermarkets and two department stores.

London — Locally based retailer Marks & Spencer has been seeking a buyer for its 18 stores in France — all of which will close at the end of the year — to save the jobs of its 1,700 employees at these locations. They may have found a taker — Groupe Galeries Lafayette, based in France. “This would offer an opportunity of a new job for all our staff, which is our main objective,” says the company's international director, David Norgrove. The proposal is subject to consultation with the staff of Marks & Spencer France.

Paris — Leading European real estate company Hammerson recently exchanged contracts to sell one of Europe's premier retail locations, 54 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris, to DEKA for $150 million. “This transaction enables us to crystallize a substantial profit and will provide funds for the group's development program,” says Hammerson CEO John Richards. Prior to the redevelopment of the site in 2000 — creating 137,500 sq. ft. behind an existing façade — the entire building was leased for the past 12 years to European retailers Galeries Lafayette, H&M and Burton.

Hammersons' portfolio is valued at $4.3 billion and provides more than 7.5 million sq. ft. of retail space and 2.7 million sq. ft. of office space.

DEKA is Germany's largest manager of open-ended real estate funds. This is DEKA's first retail acquisition in Paris. The deal was advised by Jones Lang LaSalle.

New developments

Toronto — A joint venture between H&R Developments and Lifetime Homes to develop Waterparkcity, a waterfront apartment and retail project, is currently in the planning stages. The project, to be comprised of four curved glass towers, will be built on the former site of the original Molson brewery and will accommodate close to 1,600 residential units. The first 30-story building will house 334 suites and 4,000 sq. ft. of retail.

Waterparkcity is part of Toronto's $12 billion revitalization program between the Rouge and Humber rivers. The five-year project is estimated to cost $400 million. Construction begins spring 2002.

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