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Retail REIT profits may slip on store bankruptcies

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Retailer bankruptcies likely will weigh on earnings of retail landlords, especially those that own shopping centers and mid-quality malls, an analyst said Friday.

Jefferies & Co. analyst Omotayo Okusanya said some retail real estate investment trusts may lose a penny a share to 5 cents a share in the first quarter due to shuttering of defunct stores and increasing vacancies at properties.

Shopping center owners are in the worst position. The vacancy rate at shopping centers is expected to rise to 11.1 percent this year, which would mark the highest level in two decades. The liquidation of certain retailers like Borders Group also presents hurdles for landlords of shopping centers. Borders has closed or is in the process of closing about 300 stores across the United States.

The analyst said owners of upscale malls, like Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. and Taubman Centers Inc., are the safest bets, but others may struggle.

Macerich Co. likely will report a hard hit in the first quarter, because four of its Harry & David stores have closed and 20 AnchorBlue locations are set to close, Okusanya said. Its peers, Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust and Federal Realty Investment Trust, already booked their losses from store closings in the fourth quarter, the analyst noted.

Okusanya also pointed out that Tanger Factory Outlet Centers had three Harry & David stores shut down while 14 others are in operation. Depending on how the retailer restructures, more closings could be on the way.

Mall REITs also could be hurt by the bankruptcies. Vacancies at malls started to rise in the first quarter after nine months of improvement, and rents have begun to slip.
 

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