Global shopping centre owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield collected just 20 per cent of its retail rents by late April, as its malls closed and retailers’ sales plummeted because of the flow-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tenants reported a 59.5 decline in sales across its European malls and a drop of 55.2 per cent in the US portfolio in March after the deadly virus became widespread, according to Unibail’s quarterly business update.
By April 24, Unibail had collected around a fifth of the April retail rent, “despite having extended payment terms for most of the April and May rent without applying penalties”, it said.
One of the world’s biggest owners of shopping malls, Unibail last month dumped its earnings guidance and said it would halve its dividend amid rising uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March 24, all of Unibail’s shopping centres have been substantially closed, except in Sweden and The Netherlands.
“While the situation is evolving daily, a number of governments in the group’s regions have taken steps to gradually lift the restrictions imposed,” it said.
In Germany, smaller shops have mostly been allowed to reopen since April 20. Malls are expected to reopen throughout May in Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Spain.
In the US, malls are reopening on a state-by-state basis, Unibail noted. This week Simon Property Group, the biggest operator of malls in the US, outlined plans to reopen 49 shopping centres across 10 states
Unibail took over ASX-listed Westfield and its global malls portfolio in 2018. As a result of that deal, securities in the European-based giant trade on the Australian stockmarket through a depositary instrument.
Australia’s biggest mall owners, Westfield-operator Scentre and Vicinity, have been hit hard by store closures and falling foot traffic as a result of the social distancing measures imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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