Last week, Property Week was deeply immersed in The Hot 100 retail locations in the UK.
This week, we’re basking in the sunshine in Cannes, where all the talk is of hot retail locations globally. (Well, someone has to do it.)
Anyway, it seems the Russians and Americans are vying with each other for global domination once again and this time on the retail battlefield.
The mood at retail trade show MAPIC this week was buoyant, particularly among the US contingent — and no wonder: the American Dream is alive and well judging by the recent performance of one of its premier shopping destinations. New York’s Fifth Avenue has overtaken Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay to resume its status as the priciest shopping location in the world, reveals Cushman & Wakefield’s Main Streets Across the World report, published at the event.
Granted, the reversal of fortunes is as much to do with weakening rents in Hong Kong as rising rents in New York, but nevertheless it underscores the renewed confidence in a market that hasn’t occupied the top spot since 2011.
The US isn’t having everything its own way, however.
When it comes to shopping centres, Russia is coming up fast on the rails… in Europe at least. It is set to become Europe’s biggest shopping centre market, overtaking France having already leapfrogged the UK to take second.
According to Cushman & Wakefield’s European Shopping Centre Development report, also released at MAPIC, more than 100 new shopping centres will have been developed over a two-year period by the end of the year, which is astonishing.
Back in Blighty, the shopping centre market may have slipped to third spot while London’s New Bond Street held onto fourth in the expensive location ranking, but that doesn’t mean there’s been no activity. Rumours have been swirling around Shaftesbury, owner of Carnaby Street and a good chunk of Chinatown and Soho, since Hong Kong billionaire Samuel Tak Lee upped his holding to above 5%.
Whether or not we’re at the top of the market, Shaftesbury is sitting on a raft of mature assets and analysts think the time is right to consider selling part of — or even the entire group. Word in the City is Shaftesbury could be looking at a bid of around £2.1bn and while it will no doubt hold out for more than a 5% premium to its share price, Lee’s interest has surely not gone unnoticed in its boardroom or among shareholders. The 75-year old tycoon already owns nearby Langham Estate in Fitzrovia.
Talking of £2bn-plus bids, one wonders what will happen next in the whole Canary Wharf saga. Sources close to Songbird tell me CIC, Morgan Stanley and Glick Entities were squawking in surprise rather than singing for joy when Brookfield Property Partners and QIA tabled their £2.2bn bid and regard the whole affair as “a little bit treasonous”, not to mention a major undervaluation of the business at 295p a share.
With the consensus among analysts that the bid would have to be closer to 400p to even open a dialogue, the question is: what is Brookfield, the driving force behind the bid, up to? Given the Qataris are not exactly flavour of the month at the moment (World Cup shenanigans not helping their cause), could it be hoping to flush out interest from minority shareholders? Or will the move simply act as a catalyst for a rearrangement of ownership — allowing Brookfield to take advantage of an undervaluation it was arguably partly responsible for in the first place thanks to the illiquidity of its stake? We could well find out sooner rather than later.