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10 Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (March 30, 2020)

Taubman sent a letter to its tenants last week saying it expected rent to be paid on April 1, reports CNBC. Mortgage bankers are pushing for aid from the Fed as an unintended consequence of bond-buying measures is threatening to triggering a flood of margin calls, according to Bloomberg. Houston-based Stage Stores has closed all its stores and laid off workers, reports the Houston Business Journal. These are among today’s must reads from around the commercial real estate industry.

  1. US mall owner Taubman is telling tenants they must pay rent amid coronavirus “U.S. mall owner Taubman is telling its tenants that they must pay rent amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a memo dated March 25, which was obtained by CNBC, the real estate investment trust said it still has its own obligations to meet — such as paying lenders on mortgages and paying for utilities. ‘The rental income that we receive from tenants is essential in order to meet these obligations,’ Taubman said. ‘All tenants will be expected to meet their lease obligations.’” (CNBC)
  2. ICSC’s urgent appeal to avoid indelible stain “Tom McGee, president and CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) is asking states and municipalities, in the starkest of terms, to require all regulated banks to offer a 90-day forebearance on all commercial loan obligation underlying the shopping center industry. And, if public safety requirements mandate it, the forbearance period should be extended at the end of 90 days and property owners and banks can negotiate appropriate repayment options.” (Retail Leader)
  3. Mortgage Bankers Ask SEC to Save Them From Wave of Margin Calls “Mortgage bankers are sounding alarms that the Federal Reserve’s emergency purchases of bonds tied to home loans are unintentionally putting their industry at risk by triggering a flood of margin calls on hedges lenders have entered into to protect themselves from losses. In a Sunday letter, the Mortgage Bankers Association urged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the nation’s main brokerage regulator to address the problem by telling securities firms not to escalate margin calls to ‘destabilizing levels.’” (Bloomberg)
  4. COVID-19 creating uptick in distressed properties “Bridge lenders and hard money lenders have an especially important role to play in this scenario, as a lot of industry sector loans are due this year and will likely need to be refinanced. Faber says there’s also opportunity for loan modifications where new money can be advanced, and there are still loans taking place in the healthcare sector as well.” (MPA Mag)
  5. Houston-based national retailer closing stores, furloughing most workers, cutting execs' pay “Houston-based Stage Stores Inc. (NYSE: SSI) had its own set of struggles even before the coronavirus pandemic brought much of the retail sector to a halt. Now, the department store owner is taking steps to significantly scale back operations to reduce costs and preserve liquidity, according to a press release. Stage has temporarily closed all of its 738 stores as of Friday, March 27. Previously, about 393 stores were closed in compliance with state and local regulations, while the others primarily were located in smaller markets and were operating under reduced hours.” (Houston Business Journal)
  6. Coronavirus pandemic won’t upend key NYC projects, developers say “Big Apple developers will be sweating out the open-ended statewide construction halt ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week, but are optimistic the crisis will end soon enough to save their projects and investments. The overdue shutdown to protect thousands of construction workers from contracting the coronavirus puts into limbo some 25 million square feet of office space and 5,000 apartments in the five boroughs that are in various phases of construction.” (New York Post)
  7. With Rent Soon Due, Apartment Industry Already Copes With Coronavirus Effects “The coronavirus pandemic has largely paused the country’s economy, triggering a record 3 million jobless claims in a single week in March. Many renters – as well as homeowners – are struggling to shoulder their bills, especially in metros with high costs of living. But landlords are adapting, too, establishing a variety of reprieves for their tenants.” (Forbes)   
  8. Tropicana Las Vegas to Sell in $338M Lease-Back Deal “Gaming & Leisure Properties Inc. has entered into an agreement with its landlord, Penn National Gaming Inc., to acquire the real estate assets of Tropicana Las Vegas Casino Hotel Resort in return for an aggregate non-cash rent payment of $337.5 million. Penn National purchased the property in 2015 for $360 million and will continue to operate it.” (Commercial Property Executive)
  9. Many commercial property buyers pause during coronavirus pandemic “Still, some sellers are delaying putting their properties on the market, and buyers are taking a wait-and-see approach to signing purchase contracts…. In markets around the country, some purchases of hotel properties have been called off. Hospitality and retail properties are suffering the most during the slowdown caused by the pandemic.” (The Dallas Morning News)
  10. Retail tenants are seeking rent relief. Some landlords take a long view; others say no. “With tourism at a standstill and nonessential businesses closed, local commercial tenants are looking for rent breaks as the coronavirus crisis heads into April. They’re finding mixed results.” (Miami Herald)
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