美国第二大购物中心开发公司通用增长地产（General Growth Properties）的CEO最近的一番言论表明，购物中心真的已经处于濒死状态了。
通用增长地产在美国各大城市运营着不少购物中心，像拉斯维加斯的时尚秀购物中心（Fashion Show）、火奴鲁鲁的阿拉莫阿那购物中心（Ala Moana）都是它的旗下产业。该公司的CEO桑迪普•马斯拉尼本周一宣称，由于股市并没有因为该公司旗下商场的品质而给予它更多的信心，因而他正在为公司寻找“战略性的替代选择”。这一言论也令不少投资者感到吃惊。
近日通用增长地产刚刚发布了季度财报，在该公司旗下已建成的商场中，空间占用率已经达到了95.9%。然而由于很多投资者认为购物中心已是明日黄花，加之最近一些零售业的巨头扎堆破产关店，导致投资者对购物中心产业整体信心不足，严重挫伤了通用增长地产及其主要竞争对手——西蒙地产集团（Simon Property Group）等大型商超运营公司的股价。从后者上周发布的财报中可以看，西蒙地产集团的空间占用率也和通用增长地产差不多。
通用增长地产和西蒙地产集团的日子从好几年前起就不太好过了，他们各自都已出售和剥离了一些业绩不良的资产。由于这个假日购物季各大商超的业绩十分凄惨，今年一月，就连梅西百货、J.C. Penny和西尔斯等零售业巨头也分别关闭了几十家门店。与此同时，Aéropostale、Bebe Stores、金佰利（Gymboree）和J.Crew等商超大户也深陷泥潭。因此不难看出投资者对商超类股票为何如何谨慎。（值得注意的是，在西蒙地产集团和通用增长地产运营的购物中心里，梅西百货的门店是相对关停得较少的。）
The CEO of the No. 2 U.S. mall developer General Growth Properties (ggp, -2.65%) has had it with the narrative that shopping centers are dying.
Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of the owner of such malls as Fashion Show in Las Vegas, and Ala Moana in Honolulu, surprised investors on Monday when he said he was looking at "strategic alternatives" for company, frustrated that the stock market wasn't giving his company more credit for the quality of the malls in GGP's portfolio.
The company had just reported its quarterly financial results, which included occupancy of 95.9% of space at its established malls. Still, the idea among many investors that malls are in trouble, bolstered by a surge of headline-grabbing retail bankruptcies and mass store closings by top retailers, has taken hold, hurting the stocks of mall owners like GGP and its larger rival Simon Property Group, which last week reported a similar occupancy. (spg, -1.90%)
All the agita around retail has been a drag on mall stocks, even those of GGP and Simon, both of which operate primarily high quality, productive malls: GGP shares are down about 28% off a multi-year high hit last June. Simon has taken a similar beating.
"There is a wide discount between public and private markets," Mathrani said on the conference call. "The sum of the parts is far greater than GGP's current stock price. We are reviewing all strategic alternatives to bridge the gap." When pushed on whether "strategic alternatives" could mean a sale of the company, as the term usually implies in corporate jargon, Mathrani would only say "There is no sacred cow." He also suggested the company could sell off some assets and offer a special dividend, among other options.
Typically, companies make such dramatic pronouncements in a press release, rather than in comments on a call. But the news sent shares up on Monday and Tuesday.
Both companies saw trouble coming years ago, shedding weaker malls by selling them or spinning them of in another real estate investment trust. Still, with major anchors like Macy's (m, -1.15%), J.C. Penney (jcp, +0.92%) and Sears (shld, -2.61%), each announcing dozens of store closings in January after an abysmal holiday season, and mall stalwarts like Aéropostale, Bebe Stores, Gymboree, and J.Crew struggling, it's easy to see why investors are cautious about malls. (It's worth noting that relatively few of the Macy's stores that are closing are in a Simon or GGP mall.)
What's more, the weak comparable sales at luxury chains like Nordstrom (jwn, +2.06%) and Neiman Marcus in recent quarters show that even high end malls face some peril. On the whole, the better mall developers have deftly repurposed space they've taken back from a Macy's or Sears. But there is clearly caution in the air since closings and bankruptcies have accelerated this year.
Still, Mathrani said GGP's stock market value ($20 billion after this recent increase) was below the cumulative value of its properties, something he finds perplexing and frustrating. "Investors should invest with companies that own the best retail real estate in the U.S.," he said. At the same time, he recognized his obligation to investors.
"We will get value to our shareholders," he said. "The break-up value is more than the current market capitalization. Business is strong. We will pick a path soon."