PREIT Expects To Bottom Out In 2019, Predicts 2020 Rebound
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PREIT is confident that the worst of the retail closure wave is behind it, and that it is currently in the darkness before the dawn.
"We expect 2019 to really be the trough [year] for us," PREIT Chief Financial Officer Bob McCadden said in the company's Q4 earnings call on Feb. 14. "[We can] really build on that with the openings of Fashion District [Philadelphia] and all the anchor replacements [coming online] in the third and fourth quarter of this year really providing the springboard for growth in 2020 and further growth in 2021."
CEO Joe Coradino maintained that Fashion District Philadelphia, which he called the company's "marquee project," will open on Sept. 19. Though 85% of the Center City mall redevelopment has been spoken for, only about 65% will be online when the center's doors open. The 100K SF top floor, made up of an AMC movie theater and bowling alley/arcade Round 1, will take slightly longer to deliver, Coradino said.
In the middle of last year, Coradino announced that PREIT had backfilled all of its big-boxes vacated by department stores like Sears and Macy's, but as the spaces are redeveloped, the lost revenue has caused PREIT to reduce its guidance estimates for 2019. Although some analysts are concerned about future closures, especially from JCPenney, Coradino was stridently optimistic on the call.
"We don't anticipate any JCPenney closings," Coradino said — twice for emphasis.
PREIT reported 95% occupancy among its core assets, while two of its worst-performing assets are about to be foreclosed and reclaimed by lenders (another anticipated drag on 2019 performance that will be resolved by 2020). While Coradino had previously credited its re-leasing success to proactive reclaiming of Sears and Macy's, he assured analysts on the call that PREIT will not be doing the same with JCPenney.
"I am convinced that there is room for a department store like JCPenney in the mall environment," Coradino said. "And I'm not suggesting I know the outcome but we were down talking to [JCPenney leadership] a week before last ... They seem to have gotten their customer back, all right? And so I don't think it's time to begin being proactive and replacing JCPenneys."
McCadden told analysts that though PREIT has considerable exposure to JCPenney, the stores in its portfolio have seen positive sales numbers in the past year and are among the best performers for JCPenney nationwide.