Rescue of Edcon ‘an isolated case’


Listed property fund managers are hopeful that the rescue mission at SA’s largest clothing retailer, Edcon, is an isolated case and that other retailers will not have to beg landlords and investors for rental reductions or cash injections.
Edcon is a large employer, with 40,000 staff. Its operations affect numerous suppliers and 100,000 workers indirectly.
A number of the landlords where Edcon rents stores have assisted it by granting a rent reduction or investing cash, both in exchange for equity.
Edcon also achieved a recapitalisation deal worth R2.7bn at the end of February.
Property analysts and fund managers argue that it is in the national interest for Edcon to survive.
Edcon has been battling to save jobs following some poor strategic decisions and mounting competition from newer retailers. In the past few weeks, it managed to sign a rental savings deal with a fifth of its landlords so that CEO Grant Pattison could implement a turnaround plan.
“The collapse of Edcon would have posed a systemic risk to the retail sector in SA,” Pranita Daya, a real estate analyst at Anchor Stockbrokers, said.
“Furthermore, an Edcon failure would have resulted in massive job losses and these landlords exercised good corporate citizenry in working towards a commercial solution.”
Edcon approached 30 of about 100 landlords, with 21 agreeing to reduce rent for two years, while the turnaround plan was implemented, in exchange for stakes in the group.
Others injected cash in exchange for equity.
Other retailers have not asked their landlords for rental reductions despite weak economic conditions.
This was confirmed by Growthpoint SA CEO Estienne de Klerk. While Growthpoint participated in Edcon’s restructuring by providing it with an injection of R110m in return for an equity stake, it said a rental reduction for the retailer would not have been in line with its own strategy.
Hyprop Investments agreed to a rental reduction.
CEO Morne Wilken said if any other tenants opted for a rental reduction, Hyprop would need to recognise value in acquiring a stake in return.
One landlord that declined to reduce rentals but chose to implement cash for equity was Liberty Two Degrees, the owner of stakes Sandton City and Eastgate.
CEO Amelia Beattie said she had not been approached by any tenants other than Edcon about rental savings.
“Edcon is a specific case. We didn’t decrease rentals and our leases with Edcon have not changed. Instead we are making cash contributions,” she said. –

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