Amazon Doesn’t Scare Mall Operator Poised for IPO

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon may be the bogeyman for many a business, and shopping mall investors have been among the most frightened. But MallPlaza’s not scared.

The Chilean mall operator is prepping for an IPO this month, and its executives have been shrugging off the threat posed by the titan of e-commerce in recent meetings with analysts, citing the frequent addition of new features, such as cinemas, fancy restaurants, entertainment and even hotels, to its properties.

"Their survival hinges on becoming more and more of a weekend promenade option than a pure retail bet," said Guillermo Araya, analyst at Santiago-based brokerage Renta4, who attended a meeting between MallPlaza executives and analysts in Chile.

An executive at MallPlaza’s communications department declined to comment when contacted by phone. Trading is expected to begin July 27.

MallPlaza SA, a unit of retailer SACI Falabella, is planning to list in Santiago this month. The company announced last December that non-controlling minority shareholders planned to list between 10 and 15 percent of existing shares. They could raise between $500 million and $750 million, according to press reports. The money will go to the sellers as there will be no primary offering.

MallPlaza operates in Chile, Peru and Colombia, like rival Parque Arauco SA.

"Those three are the countries that are supposed to grow the most in South America, and the company’s not exposed to the storms in Argentina and Brazil," Araya said in a phone interview. "There haven’t been many listings recently so that also adds to MallPlaza’s attractiveness."

Another point in its favor is that people like to invest in stuff they can see, such as stores, according to Araya, which explains the success of the IPO of retailer Empresas Tricot SA, which raised $140 million a year ago. Shares are up 24 percent since then. MallPlaza also provides some defensive qualities as its tenants sign long term contracts tied to inflation, Araya said.

MallPlaza’s margins also look very attractive and the business is stable, with 90 percent of revenue at a fixed rate and tied to inflation, said Paulina Vargas, an analyst at BICE Inversiones who was also at meetings with the executives.

Still, "all retailers need to defend themselves from Amazon," Vargas said. MallPlaza and Parque Arauco have rightly been changing their mix towards more entertainment, luxury stores, restaurants -- some locations have gone as far as to add health clinics and higher-education schools.

MallPlaza currently operates 21 malls in Latin America and is building two more in Colombia. Total revenue in 2017 was about $430 million and earnings reached $340 million. Falabella owns 59 percent of shares and said that it isn’t planning to reduce its stake with the listing. BTG Pactual, Banchile and LarrainVial are handling the local sale while JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are in charge of the international portion.

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