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Eight Must Reads for the CRE Industry Today (May 16, 2020)

An industry whistleblower is alleging widespread manipulation of CMBS underwriting, reports ProPublica. J.C. Penney is expected to file for bankruptcy protection within days, according to CNBC. These are among today’s must reads from around the commercial real estate industry.

  1. When Shoppers Venture Out, What Will Be Left? “Retail sales fell 16.4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Friday, by far the largest monthly drop on record. That followed an 8.3 percent drop in March, the previous record. Total sales for April, which include retail purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants, were the lowest since 2012, even without accounting for inflation. Some of the declines in individual categories were staggering.” (The New York Times)
  2. Whistleblower: Wall Street Has Engaged in Widespread Manipulation of Mortgage Funds “Among the toxic contributors to the financial crisis of 2008, few caused as much havoc as mortgages with dodgy numbers and inflated values. Huge quantities of them were assembled into securities that crashed and burned, damaging homeowners and investors alike. Afterward, reforms were promised. Never again, regulators vowed, would real estate financiers be able to fudge numbers and threaten the entire economy. Twelve years later, there’s evidence something similar is happening again.” (ProPublica)
  3. J.C. Penney Is Planning to File for Bankruptcy as Early as Friday, Sources Say “J.C. Penney is planning to file for bankruptcy protection, people familiar with the matter tell CNBC. Its advisors are currently working on a bankruptcy filing that could come early Friday morning, they said. They cautioned there is still a chance that final negotiations between the retailer and its lenders spill into the weekend and delay the filing.” (CNBC)
  4. Commercial Real Estate’s Survival Plan Looks a Lot Like WeWork “Landlords were already beginning to offer shorter, more flexible office leases. The pandemic is accelerating all of those plans.” (Bloomberg, subscription required)
  5. Most Employers in CBRE Study Favor Phase Return, Adding Touchless Tech, Restricting Visitors “Most companies included in an analysis by CBRE plan to take a gradual, cautious approach to bringing employees back to their workplaces as governments begin to lift restrictions tied to COVID-19. Roughly half of the 203 company operations that CBRE studied across the globe are implementing touchless technology to enhance cleanliness. Most are following social-distancing standards. And most will provide their employees with face coverings, though less than a third will require the covering be worn at all times in any company facility unless mandated by local authorities.” (BusinessWire)
  6. NMHC Rent Payment Tracker Finds 87.7 Percent of Apartment Households Paid Rent as of May 13 “The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC)’s Rent Payment Tracker found 87.7 percent of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by May 13 in its survey of 11.4 million units of professionally managed apartment units across the country. This is a 2.1-percentage point decrease in the share who paid rent through May 13, 2019 and compares to 85.0 percent that had paid by April 13, 2020. These data encompass a wide variety of market-rate rental properties across the United States, which can vary by size, type and average rental price.” (NMHC)
  7. IKEA’s Shopping Mall Arm Ingka Centres Plans Shopping Mall Entry in U.S. “IKEA's shopping malls business, one of the world's biggest, is looking to enter the United States in the next couple of years and is in talks to snap up central properties in major cities, its boss told Reuters. Gerard Groener, managing director of Ingka Centres, which has 45 shopping centres in Europe, Russia and China, said his company was in several negotiations for inner-city real estate.” (Reuters)
  8. Orlando Is Reopening. Persuading Tourists to Come Back Is Harder “Simone Kuska, director of sales and marketing for the independent Florida Hotel and Conference Center, said the business is losing up to $1 million a month. No more than 35 of its 511 rooms have been occupied on a given day, she said, mostly with flight crews who have been shuttling largely empty planes to and from Orlando International Airport. ‘I’ve been through 9/11, I’ve been through the recession in 2008, and this is definitely the worst I have seen,’ Ms. Kuska said. ‘Nothing will change for us until the parks are open.’” (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
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