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10 Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (March 27, 2020)

Construction workers in New York City are still working in crowded conditions on luxury towers, reports The New York Times. The coronavirus shutdown might pose an existential crisis for REITs, according to The Real Deal. These are among today’s must reads from around the commercial real estate industry.

  1. Fed’s Powell Tries to Reassure Americans the Economy Will Recover “Venturing into the province of celebrity news and cooking demonstrations, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday told Americans that the economy would recover and the central bank would be there to assist. Asked at the end of a 15 minute interview on NBC’s ‘Today Show,’ what his message was to Americans during this difficult time, Powell replied: ‘The Federal Reserve is working hard to support you now and our policies will be very important when the recovery does come to make that recovery as strong as possible.’” (MarketWatch)
  2. Coronavirus Stimulus Checks Will Come Within Three Weeks, Mnuchin Says “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that people will start getting relief checks within three weeks, as the country reels from the coronavirus pandemic. Mnuchin spoke to CNBC the morning after the Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package intended to blunt economic damage from the spread of the coronavirus. The House is expected to vote on the legislation Friday.” (CNBC)
  3. Virus Rules Let Construction Workers Keep Building Luxury Towers “While life in New York City and the surrounding region has come to a screeching halt, the construction industry, one of the region’s main economic engines and biggest employers, is humming along as if nothing has changed. Laborers work side by side, cramming 20-people deep into service elevators and sharing the same portable restroom.” (The New York Times)
  4. Now Cash-Constrained, REITs Face “Potential Existential Crisis” “The financial challenges caused by the new coronavirus is causing some REITs to change — or delay — paying out their regular cash dividends to help make sure they have enough money on hand. And a major industry group has stepped up to ask Washington for help. ‘It is a potential existential crisis for REITs,’ said Joseph Gulant, chair of the business department at Blank Rome.” (The Real Deal)
  5. Hotel Giant Oyo Looks to Rewrite Contracts That Fueled its Rise “Oyo Hotels and Homes, which built itself into the world’s second-biggest hotel chain by total number of rooms, is phasing out an important tool that fueled its rise. The India-based company and a key investment by SoftBank Group Corp. 9984 -9.40% ’s $100 billion tech fund grew quickly in part by offering independent hotel owners the unusual perk of guaranteed revenues if their hotels joined Oyo’s chain. Many hotels signed up, attracted by the guarantees—sometimes at more than 100% of the previous year’s revenue, according to former Oyo employees.” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
  6. Lidl Is Planning to Hire 1,000 U.S. Workers. If They Contract Coronavirus, Lidl Will Fully Pay for All Testing and Care, Including Hospitalizations “Lidl is planning to hire up to 1,000 temporary employees across its stores and distribution centers and provide them with free health insurance for any coronavirus-related care, the company said Thursday. The policy covers testing and treatment — including hospitalizations — related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel virus, at no cost to employees. The plan waives copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles and includes coverage for virtual doctors' visits.” (Business Insider)
  7. Essential? Retailers Like Guitar Center and Michaels Think They Are “At some Guitar Center stores, employees are still allowing customers to try out models of guitars. Dillard’s, a department store chain popular in the South, is still welcoming shoppers looking for clothing and makeup. And Michaels, the arts and crafts chain, says it is keeping many of its stores open to provide supplies to parents teaching their homebound children. ‘We are here for the makers,’ the retailer said in an email to one concerned customer.” (The New York Times)
  8. Recording Office Closures Could Stymie Construction Loans, Disrupt Title Commitments “Across the country, counties and municipalities have been shutting down places of work in efforts to encourage social distancing and stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. This includes county and city government recording offices that facilitate the processing of critical commercial real estate documents — such as deeds of title and mortgage records — that are ultimately responsible for the closing of commercial real estate transactions.” (Commercial Observer)
  9. Simon Property Group Has Most Exposure to Cheesecake Factory, RBC Says “RBC puts out a note saying Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG) has the most exposure to Cheesecake Factory, which reportedly has been telling landlords that it won't be able to make rent payments due April 1. Simon Property, recently up 0.1%, had declined as much as 6.3% earlier in the session. Cheesecake Factory rises 0.3%.” (Seeking Alpha)
  10. Fairway Market Sells Store Leases; Amazon Among the Buyers “Fairway Market’s plans to sell all its 14 stores is proceeding on track. The iconic, 87-year-old New York grocer, which filed for bankruptcy in January, awarded bids for two store leases in New Jersey to Amazon, six locations in New York City to ShopRite operator Village Super Market Inc. and one to Key Food cooperative member Seven Seas Georgetowne LLC in a court-supervised auction.” (Chain Store Age)
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