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WeWork on track for positive cash flow in 2021; remote working adoption to rise

S&P Global Market Intelligence offers our top picks of real estate news stories and more published throughout the week.

New York City's retail economy began to reopen from its coronavirus-induced hibernation at the end of the second quarter, but the damage has been done, and it may take time for market fundamentals to bounce back.

CBRE data released this week showed a "significant deceleration" in New York City retail leasing velocity in the first half of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the U.S. "Many retailers have embraced the opportunity to partially resume business, but most are still in survival mode, facing reduced operations, foot traffic and revenue," the firm said in a July 16 report.

The rolling four-quarter aggregate leasing velocity, measuring total leasing renewals and new leases — for retail property was 3.1 million square feet in the second quarter, representing a 16.5% decline quarter over quarter and a 24.3% decline year over year. CBRE expects the downward trend to continue through the back half of the year.

The number of direct, ground-floor retail availabilities on the city's 16 retail corridors, meanwhile, reached a new peak of 235 spaces.

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Manhattan, N.Y.'s average asking rent fell to $688 per square foot, representing a 3.6% decline quarter over quarter and an 11.3% decline year over year. It is the first time the average has fallen below $700 per square foot since 2011, CBRE said.

"The ongoing repricing of trophy properties was a significant factor in the declining average, and with an increasing amount of retail vacancy along the high-street corridors and the introduction of new, heavily discounted availabilities, average asking rents will likely continue to decline through the year," the firm said.

Office pulse

* According to a survey conducted by CBRE, the coronavirus pandemic impact is likely to result in increased adoption of remote working, as well as "permanent changes in real estate strategy." The survey involved 126 senior-level global real estate executives, with half of those from Fortune 500 firms. About 70% of the respondents said some portion of their workforce will be allowed to work remotely full time, whereas 61% said all employees would be allowed to work outside the office at least part-time.

The We route

* Embattled coworking company WeWork Cos. Inc. is anticipating positive cash flow in 2021, London's Financial Times reported, citing Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure. The We Co. unit has seen strong demand since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Claure told the publication.

* Separately, WeWork leased roughly 110,000 square feet of space at an office building at 30 Hudson St. in Jersey City, N.J., to serve as the global headquarters of Organon & Co., Business Insider reported, citing a Merck & Co. Inc. spokeswoman. The building is owned by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

* In the U.K., WeWork scrapped its plan to occupy the entire Hyphen building in Manchester, pursuant to a mutual agreement with the owner, Boultbee Brooks Real Estate Ltd., Property Week reported, citing a WeWork spokesperson.

Property sphere

* Colony Capital Inc. may lose control of its 89-property Tharaldson hotel portfolio and the 48-property Inland hotel portfolio in the U.S. after it failed to reach a long-term solution with its lenders, The Real Deal reported, citing court filings and servicer commentary. The commercial mortgage-backed security-financed portfolios are set to be transferred to the control of receivers.

* Private equity and real estate giant The Blackstone Group Inc. moved to liquidate and terminate its CMBS-focused Blackstone Real Estate Income Fund, Blackstone Real Estate Income Fund II and Blackstone Real Estate Income Master Fund, subject to shareholder approval.

* Savanna Investment Management LLC closed its purchase of the 27-story office building at 1375 Broadway in New York City for $435 million from Westbrook Partners LLC, the Commercial Observer reported, citing multiple sources.

Investment arena

* Private investment firm Wafra Inc. agreed to make a $400 million investment in Colony Capital subsidiary Digital Colony Management LLC. The investment will be used to acquire a minority stake in Digital, as well as to provide capital commitments to Digital's current and future investment products to boost its investment management business.

* A venture of regional mall REIT Simon Property Group Inc. and Authentic Brands Group LLC received the green light to provide an $80 million zero-interest bankruptcy financing package to apparel retailer Brooks Brothers, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Brooks Brothers lawyers. The embattled retailer is reportedly in talks for a rescue deal with potential suitors, including the Simon venture.

* Real estate-focused Bridge Investment Group LLC raised $1.3 billion for its opportunity zones strategy and has already deployed a significant portion of that capital in 26 assets in 17 markets across the U.S.

Around the world

* ESR-REIT and Sabana Shari'ah Compliant Industrial Real Estate Investment Trust are merging to create the fifth-largest industrial REIT in Singapore by asset size and the fourth-largest by market share. The implied consideration payable to Sabana unit holders is 37.7 Singaporean cents per unit, translating to a total consideration of approximately S$396.9 million.

* Australia's Cromwell Property Group and EXS Capital affiliate Stratus Data Centres are joining hands to form the Stratus Cromwell Data Centre Fund that will target a US$1 billion gross asset value.

* Ayala Land Inc.-sponsored subsidiary AREIT Inc. is close to its IPO as the Philippines' Securities and Exchange Commission largely cleared the planned listing. AREIT Inc., the first REIT of the country, aims to offer up to 47,864,000 new common shares and up to 409,019,000 existing common shares at a maximum per-share price of 30.05 pesos.

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