Owner of 100 malls across US files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Fallout from the pandemic last year forced Washington Prime to close some properties and relax rent collection from its tenants.
Fallout from the pandemic last year forced Washington Prime to close some properties and relax rent collection from its tenants.PHOTO: AFP

BENGALURU (REUTERS) - Mall owner Washington Prime Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sunday (June 13), after the Covid-19 pandemic forced it to temporarily close some of its roughly 100 shopping centres across the United States and businesses were unable to pay it rent.

The company's estimated assets ranged from US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) to US$10 billion as did its estimated liabilities, according to a filing.

The US economy is now sharply rebounding with more than 140 million Americans fully vaccinated and businesses reopening.

Nevertheless, previous government stay-at-home orders and business closures designed to slow the pandemic crushed many retailers' bottom lines, imperilling their ability to pay rent to landlords such as Washington Prime.

Other mall owners such as CBL & Associates Properties and Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust filed for bankruptcy last year.

Reuters was the first to report that Washington Prime, formed in 2014 following a spin-off from mall giant Simon Property Group, was preparing to seek bankruptcy protection.

The company was in talks for roughly US$100 million of so-called debtor-in-possession financing to aid operations during bankruptcy proceedings, Reuters reported earlier on Sunday.

Fallout from the pandemic last year forced Washington Prime to close some properties for a time and relax collection of rent from its tenants, squeezing the mall owner's finances.

During the throes of the pandemic last year, Washington Prime's rental income plummeted about US$127 million from 2019 levels due to the coronavirus outbreak.

During the first three months of this year, Washington Prime's rental income was off roughly US$20 million compared with the same time in 2020. Its cash flows from operations for the three months ending in March were US$3.3 million, a plunge from US$10 million during the same time last year.