SÃO PAULO — Brazilian luxury mall operator Grupo Iguatemi expects its revenues will outpace rivals this year and is analyzing acquisitions in the beleaguered retail sector, said chief executive officer Carlos Jereissati.
“We have been very resilient, even with the downturn of the Brazilian economy,” Jereissati said during São Paulo Fashion Week’s 42nd edition, which closed Friday. “This is mainly because of two things: Brazilians are buying more in Brazil and a lot of brands have committed to reducing some of their margins to stay competitive. They have a long-term commitment.”
Those companies include the likes of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry and Chanel which the developer, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has brought to Brazil to cater to its growing millionaire base, at least before the economy slipped into recession in 2014.
Jereissati, who leads the family-owned company, which also owns some skyscrapers in Brazil’s largest city, said Iguatemi has met its target to grow turnover in the past two years above competitors such as Multiplan, BR Malls and Aliansce. In 2016, the company expects business to fare similarly, though the 43-year-old entrepreneur declined to provide a specific revenue forecast.
Iguatemi Empresa de Shopping Centers, as the entity operating 17 high-end malls in Brazil is called, is also hunting for opportunistic acquisitions in the retail sector, clobbered by a stinging recession that will see Gross Domestic Product shrink 3 percent this year, on top of a 3.2 percent decline for 2015, according to the latest statistics.
“We are going to do less greenfield. We are more focused on analyzing acquisitions than on refurbishings or new projects,” Jereissati said, without disclosing potential targets.
That said, the firm is on track to open three new outlet malls by 2020, with one set to bow in Santa Catarina in Florianópolis by late 2017, said an investor relations executive, adding that the facilities will carry the same mall fashion brands but at discount prices. The other outlets will open in São José dos Pinhais and Novo Lima in Parana and Minas Gerais states, respectively.
The facilities will each measure about 130,000 square feet and cost around 350 million reals, or $109.2 million at current exchange, to build, said Gustavo Cambauva, an analyst with BTG Pactual.
He forecast the group will deliver operating profits — on an earnings before interest and taxes level — of 380 million reals, or $121 million, up 5 percent from last year when they grew 8 percent. Revenues will rise 7 percent to 682 million reals, or $216 million, versus an 8 percent hike in 2015.
That said, he noted the company is outperforming most other mall operators except for Mutiplan, which is performing similarly. BR Malls and Aliansce have done more poorly, he added.
“It has been quite a difficult year for Brazil, but at the end of the day, Iguatemi is more focused on higher-income consumers who are not suffering that much,” Cambauva said. “Management is pretty good and their locations are better as they are located in south and southeast Brazil and not in the north and northeast where the economy is weaker.
“We only have A and B class malls and these consumers are more elastic and super-leveraged, much more than the average Brazilian,” said the investor relations executive, adding that well-heeled Brazilians also hoarded cash during the country’s decadelong boom ending two years ago.
“We are performing pretty well considering the economic scenario,” the executive added. “Last quarter, our revenues grew 3 percent, well over our rivals which were negative in some cases.”
There are some reasons to hold the Champagne away.
Major tenant Daslu — the embattled women’s wear retailer — will shutter its large JK Iguatemi store after missing nearly $1 million in rent payments.
And Brazil’s economy remains wobbly, despite a new government with a hopeful agenda. GDP was recently revised to gain 1.3 percent in 2017, down from a previous estimate of 1.5 percent.