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Saturday January 21, 2012

KrisAssets plans REIT exercise

By ANGIE NG
angie@thestar.com.my


PETALING JAYA: KrisAssets Holdings Bhd is likely to inject its two retail assets in Mid Valley City the Mid Valley Megamall and The Gardens shopping mall into a retail real estate and investment trust (REIT) this year.

An industry source said the company had already engaged a merchant bank to look into the REIT exercise.

“The two assets have an estimated total asset value of close to RM4bil which makes KrisAssets a strong candidate to sponsor a REIT to unlock the value of its assets for its shareholders,” an analyst with a local brokerage told StarBizWeek.

The Mid Valley Megamall, which opened in 1999, has a net lettable area of 1.7 million sq ft on 5 floors that are occupied by about 400 stores. It also has a convention centre and two hotels Cititel and Boulevard. Its retail space is 100% occupied and commands average rental rates of RM10.50 to RM10.60 per sq ft.

The Gardens at Mid Valley City, which opened in September 2007, is the second phase of Mid Valley City. The Gardens contains a high-end shopping mall with branded labels. Its 830,000 sq ft of retail space is about 97% occupied with average rental rates of RM9.40.

The analyst said KrisAssets would be able to take advantage of the low prevailing tax structure accorded to REITs.

The REIT would be exempted from corporate tax if it distributes at least 90% of its total annual income to unit holders.

He said retail REITs had proven to be popular among the investing public but good retail assets had become a scarce commodity now.

Financing for such REITs was still available and the onus was on the sponsor companies to plan for more holistic retail projects that could cater to the changing needs of city folks, he added.

Another bank-backed analyst said the strong market response to the recent listing of Pavilion REIT, which has been oversubscribed by about 28 times, as well as the yield compression on select well-managed REITs including CapitaMall Trust, could have triggered KrisAssets' plan to expedite its REIT plan.

“Furthermore, in an environment where bank interest rates are expected to remain flat at best, we expect sustained buying interests on the REITs. This means that the company's parent, IGB Corp, which owns 75% of KrisAssets, would be able to extract generous valuations for its assets by divesting them to the REIT,” he added.

He said the REIT would be able to raise enough funds for IGB to undertake a mixed development project in London. IGB is said to be bidding for the project in west London, believed to be its first development project there.

In a recent report, RHB Research said it was positive on retail REITs although on average, they offered slightly lower yields compared with other sub-segment REITs.

“A strategic combination of asset acquisitions, asset-enhancement initiatives and creative events to drive shopper footfalls is crucial to deliver sustainable distribution per unit (DPU) growth.

“Retail REITs offer the highest earnings per unit (EPU) and DPU growth within our coverage. The office segment continues to experience massive oversupply, while industrial production is generally more sensitive to GDP growth.

“Apart from buying for the REIT's yield, investors should also ride on the rising valuations of scarced quality retail properties,” the report noted.

DTZ Research noted that retail REITs were subject to macro-economic risk and any downturn in the economy would have an impact on their performance.

“Notwithstanding the cautious consumer spending, the outlook for the retail sector remains positive with sales growth forecast to move upwards to 6.5% in 2012 from 6.0% for 2011,” it added.

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