Cushman reports 10% drop in revenue in 2020

Cushman & Wakefield CEO Brett White

Cushman & Wakefield CEO Brett White

The fourth quarter of 2020 was another tough one for Cushman & Wakefield, putting an end to a tough year for the commercial real estate giant.

Cushman reported a net loss of $27.3 million in the fourth quarter, its third consecutive quarterly loss in 2020. Quarterly revenue was $2.3 billion, a decrease of 13 percent over the same time the previous year. The pandemic was once again the culprit, as leasing activity remains lower than it was in 2019.

The firm recorded $388.7 million in revenue from leasing, down by 36 percent from the same time last year. Revenue from investment sales activities was $319.3 million, down 12 percent from a year ago.

But there was some good news: Fourth quarter leasing revenue was up 21 percent over the previous quarter, and investment sales revenue more than doubled, showing some signs of recovery.

“Our fourth quarter result is the balance of encouraging signals on business activity, especially in brokerage, and validation of our commitment to operational excellence,” said CEO Brett White during a Thursday earnings call. “We have executed very well in a very fluid and uncertain environment.”

For all of 2020, the company recorded a net loss of $220.5 million, and revenue of $7.8 billion — a 10 percent dip from 2019’s number.

Still, the loss was partially offset by the stable income from the company’s property and facility management sector.

The firm’s cost saving efforts of about $300 million in 2020 also contributed to mitigate the loss, said CFO Duncan Palmer, who will be stepping down from the position on Feb. 28. Neil Johnson has been appointed as a new CFO.

Though the pandemic-driven downturn continues, executives expressed some optimism about the future during the call.

“As we look ahead, most economists are cautiously optimistic that the worst of the pandemic impact on the economy is largely behind us,” said Kevin Thorpe, the company’s chief economist. “By extension, the worst of the impact on the property market is also largely behind us.”

Cushman’s $3B debt load poses default risk

Cushman & Wakefield CEO Brett White and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon (Cushman & Wakefield; Getty)

Cushman & Wakefield CEO Brett White and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon (Cushman & Wakefield; Getty)

Cushman & Wakefield, which is under water on its $3.2 billion debt load, could be headed toward a default if its Covid-battered earnings continue to decline.

The Chicago-based real estate services firm is the most highly leveraged company among its major competitors, thanks to a pile of debt loaded on by the private equity firm TPG Capital in the lead-up to Cushman’s 2018 initial public offering.

A big part of that financing — Cushman’s $2.7 billion first-lien term loan — is currently about 4.5 times the size of the company’s earnings, according to analysts at William Blair. If that figure climbs to 5.8 times, it could be considered in default under the terms of its credit agreement with lender JPMorgan.

“If they get above that, that’s a conversation they’ll have to have with their bankers,” said Moody’s analyst Thuy Nguyen, who covers Cushman’s debt.

Nguyen added that there are a few significant steps before default becomes an issue, and that Cushman has a sizable cash reserve it can use.

“We think they have ample cushion,” she said.

A spokesperson for Cushman, headed by CEO Brett White, said the company started 2020 with a “robust balance sheet and strong cash position.”

“We are facing this period of economic uncertainty in strong financial shape — with significant liquidity of $1.8 billion and a service line mix that generates nearly half of our revenue from recurring streams like property and facilities management,” the spokesperson said.

Cushman’s earnings were down 32 percent in the second quarter to $118.8 million, according to its most recent financial disclosures. And analysts expect things to be worse for the industry when CRE firms begin reporting third quarter earnings in the coming weeks.

How much longer the pandemic plays out and how much deeper it hits the CRE sector will determine how many of those firms fare.

Wiggle room

Cushman’s debt has what’s known as a springing financial covenant — an agreement that gets triggered if the company draws down about $400 million of its $1 billion credit revolver with JPMorgan.

As of the end of the second quarter, Cushman hadn’t drawn down anything on the revolver. And the company has a pile of cash it can use totaling $875.5 million, after it issued $650 million of new corporate bonds in May.

There’s also some accounting wiggle room that muddies the picture a bit. The EBITDA figure Cushman and its bank use to measure the financial covenant is different from the figure the company reports publicly each quarter.

The former includes things like deductions from earnings and expense savings the company can include to help improve its debt ratio.

“They have plenty of add backs on top of EBITDA,” explained S&P Global analyst Dio Mejia.

One expert called that kind of accounting the “private equity special,” referring to the terms companies like TPG negotiate when leveraging up companies. In fact, Cushman’s debt sets it apart from its CRE peers like CBRE, JLL and Colliers International — both in the form of its financing and its sheer size.

Cushman’s overall debt of $3.8 billion eclipses its market capitalization of $2.56 billion and gives the firm a net leverage ratio of 3.7 times, according to equity analysts at William Blair. That’s much higher than CBRE (.6 times), JLL (1.1 times) and Colliers (1.5 times).

And those firms use more conventional financing like credit revolvers and long-term corporate bonds. None have first-lien loans — essentially a mortgage — on the books like Cushman has.

Real estate services firms in general usually don’t carry large debt loads, because they have few if any physical assets to serve as collateral. Cushman, though, has paid off a significant amount of the debt TPG placed on it through proceeds from the IPO, and improved its fiscal position. And experts said companies don’t usually get caught off guard by financial covenants; they’re something firms can plan for ahead of time and negotiate with their lenders.

Still, Cushman and others face a big unknown when it comes to the pandemic. With revenues from leasing and sales commissions declining, the big CRE firms are relying on steady revenue from streams such as their property management contracts. But even those may be in jeopardy.

Vornado Realty Trust, for example, disclosed earlier this month that it is laying off 72 building service workers at three office buildings around Penn Station and on Park Avenue in New York.

Cushman was recently reported to be in talks to acquire Newmark, and possibly do a merger with JLL.

William Blair analysts in August noted that Cushman’s debt load often comes up when the talk turns to potential mergers and acquisitions.

“Management continued to say that Cushman’s current leverage is not prohibitive in getting incremental deals completed in this environment, although it will likely remain disciplined and complete only deals with valuations that are highly attractive,” the analysts wrote.

Cushman & Wakefield reports $101M quarterly loss

Cushman & Wakefield’s Brett White

Cushman & Wakefield’s Brett White

Cushman & Wakefield reported a net loss of $100.8 million in the second quarter, down from a $6.3 million profit a year ago.

The loss came despite cost-cutting, as $75 million was trimmed for things such as travel, entertainment, events and incentive compensation.

“I think most of us would agree that the impact of Covid-19 is unique and certainly different from previous recessions such as the great financial crisis,” said CEO Brett White during an earnings conference call Thursday. “However, while the shape of the recovery may differ from the GFC in the second quarter, the initial impact of Covid-19 presented similar behavior in our industry, especially across our leasing and capital markets brokerage businesses.”

Revenue from leasing activities during the second quarter was $264 million, down by 46 percent from $489 million in the same period last year. Revenue from capital market activities was $113 million, down by 52 percent from a year ago.

The firm’s total revenue for the second quarter was about $1.7 billion, down by 18 percent from last year’s $2.1 billion.

As in the first quarter, the steady stream of revenue from property management was a bright spot. That business line made up about 40 percent of total revenue in the second quarter.

In May, the company issued $650 million of senior secured notes, which mature in 2028, to expand its liquidity and be ready for merger and acquisition opportunities, White said.

“As many of you know, in this industry, differentiated real estate service platforms do not tend to trade hands often,” he said. “In times of stress, the market for those businesses can provide generational opportunities and Cushman & Wakefield is well positioned to take advantage of these should they arise.”

Contact Akiko Matsuda at [email protected]

National Cheat Sheet: SoftBank mulls $15B addition to Vision Fund, Compass buys Stribling… & more

Clockwise from top left: SoftBank Group mulls adding $15B to its Vision Fund, Compass plans to buy New York City-based Stribling & Associates, Google adds a vacation rental feature to its hotel booking platform and Cushman & Wakefield launches a nationwide sports and entertainment practice.

SoftBank mulls adding $15B to giant Vision Fund
Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group is considering adding an additional $15 billion to its $100 billion Vision Fund and may end up raising capital for another fund, Bloomberg reported. Since 2017, SoftBank has invested $70 billion from its Vision Fund in technology-focused real estate startups like Compass and the We Companyboth of which have made a number of acquisitions within the past year after receiving such funding. Sources told Bloomberg that SoftBank has considered “persuading state-backed investors in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to waive their rights to debt repayments or taking out more bank loans.” [TRD]

Compass grows again, adding Stribling & Associates
The ever-expanding Compass agreed this week to purchase Stribling & Associates, marking the venture capital-backed brokerage’s first major acquisition in New York City. It wasn’t immediately clear how much the brokerage planned to pay for Stribling, a boutique that closed $1.62 billion in sell-side deals in Manhattan last year. Stribling president Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan praised Compass in an interview with The Real Deal. “To work with a company focused on making the agent as relevant as possible, and ensuring their livelihood is paramount to this… you can’t say that about every firm in this city or country,” she said. The Real Deal subsequently reported on the rapid changes and increased competition in the brokerage business that helped push Stribling into the arms of Compass, which so far this year has absorbed other brokerages in Northern California and South Florida. [TRD]

Google gets into the vacation rental business
Having already launched a hotel booking platform, Google is now letting its users book vacation rentals, Skift first reported. Mobile users can use the platform to book entire vacation homes rather than just single rooms and desktop users will be able to do so in a few months. “Our goal is to provide the best possible search experience for users looking for a place to stay,” a Google spokesperson told the outlet. “Increasingly, we see that users are interested in alternative accommodations when traveling.” The platform currently works with partners such as Expedia, HomeAway, and TripAdvisor. [TRD]

Private equity firm makes play in CRE arena
Insight Venture Partners has made another key acquisition in the commercial real estate technology space, picking up SiteCompli, a New York-based software startup focused on building operations, The Real Deal first reported last week. The deal, which closed quietly earlier this year, saw SiteCompli be absorbed into Insight portfolio company Property Brands. Jason Griffith and Ross Goldenberg, who founded SiteCompli in 2008, will stay on as co-CEOs of the company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed and representatives for New York-based Insight and Knoxville-based Property Brands did not return requests for comment on the matter. [TRD]

Cushman starts sports, entertainment practice
Following in the path of commercial real estate services rivals CBRE Group and JLL, Cushman & Wakefield has launched a nationwide sports and entertainment practice, Crain’s Chicago Business reported. The new team will be led by Chicago-based executive managing directors Craig Cassell and Michael Sessa and the firm also plans to bring aboard executives from Atlanta, New York and San Francisco. The practice will advise “pro teams, colleges and municipalities as they build, redevelop and maintain their sports venues,” the outlet reported. The launch is just one of many changes that Cushman has made since it went public last year. [TRD]


Miami tops US list of most rent-burdened cities
Los Angeles and New York may be known for their high rents, but Miami tops the list of the most rent-burdened cities in the country, according to a new Freddie Mac report, which noted that renters living in the area don’t earn as much as they do in other cities. Meanwhile, affordable housing supply in many municipalities hasn’t kept up with the demand for it, Freddie Mac said. “That’s pushing affordable rents out of reach for millions of American families,” said Steve Guggenmos, vice president of multifamily research and modeling at Freddie Mac. San Diego, Los Angeles, New York and Orlando took the other top spots on Freddie Mac’s list. [TRD]

Chicago resi brokerage expands into Georgia
The Windy City’s top residential brokerage, @properties, is expanding into Atlanta by investing in Georgia brokerage Ansley Atlanta, The Real Deal reported. The partnership will allow Ansley Atlanta to use @properties’ resources, including its “pl@tform” technology suite; @properties, meanwhile, will be able to establish itself in a new market. Outside of Chicago, @properties already has offices in New Buffalo, Michigan, and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but has not yet expanded beyond the Midwest. In a statement, @properties co-founder Thaddeus Wong noted that the brokerage has been working to “selectively bring pl@tform to new markets through other independents.” [TRD]

Bravo star Serhant expands NYC team with new hires
Nest Seekers International’s Ryan Serhant, the super-agent of “Million Dollar Listing” fame, has expanded his team in Manhattan with four new brokers, The Real Deal reported. John Bataille, Scott Fava, Nick Hovsepian and Nicole Palermo joined Serhant’s squad within the past month, bringing the size of the team to 64 brokers. Bataille and Hovsepian came aboard from the Corcoran Group, Fava joined from Compass and Palermo defected from Brown Harris Stevens. The moves come about two months after Serhant snagged former Corcoran agent Mike Fabbri. [TRD]

Private equity exec lists $22.5M mansion after tax passes
The managing director of a private equity firm put his Upper West Side mansion on the market — a day after New York legislators passed a budget that includes a mansion tax. Cerberus Capital Management’s Jonathan Gallen is seeking $22.8 million for the townhouse, which has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a library, a garden and a terrace. The new tax, which could go into effect as soon as July, amends the existing transfer tax. A buyer would pay $225,000 on the home under the old tax, and around $844,000 under the new provisions. Both Gallen and his broker, Cathy Franklin of the Corcoran Group, declined to comment on the listing. [TRD]

Honolulu has a megaproject to rival Hudson Yards
The master plan for a Hudson Yards-esque megadevelopment in Honolulu has been named the best in the country for 2019, Forbes reported. Dallas-based real estate company Howard Hughes Corporation is building the development known as Ward Village along the coast of Honolulu. The 60-acre project, which includes thousands of apartments and around 1 million square feet of commercial space, is focused on wellness. Simon Treacy, president of Howard Hughes’ Hawaii branch, told the outlet the project aims to “create environments where people will talk to each other, spend time outdoors and build a very diverse community.” [TRD]

Chemical processing plant spurs Rust Belt development
Construction of a new chemical processing plant is spurring a new spate of housing construction in the Rust Belt region, the New York Times reported. Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell is building the plant along the Ohio River, around 30 miles from Pittsburgh. The plant is expected to create around 600 full-time jobs — as well as around 6,000 temporary construction jobs —  and will be the “first sizable new factory” built in the area since 1992, according to the outlet. A local real estate company’s chairman called the plant “the best thing to happen in our region in 40-plus years.” [TRD]

HBO could take 240K sf of Culver City space
HBO, the cable giant that is now a division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia, has inked a lease for 240,000 square feet of space at the mixed-use Ivy Station complex in Culver City, California, sources familiar with the deal told The Real Deal. The $350 million project, which is currently under construction, includes apartments, a hotel and restaurants, as well as retail and office space. Sources told TRD that HBO will lease the entire office portion of the complex. The network isn’t the first media firm that has relocated to Culver City; Apple and Amazon already have their own offices in the area. [TRD]

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National Cheat Sheet: Newmark seeks $100M IPO, WeWork bags Lord & Taylor iconic Fifth Avenue flagship for $850M … & more

Clockwise from top left: Tesla is taking a new space in Los Angeles, Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood is going to get a super tall building and WeWork is buying Lord & Taylor’s Fifth Avenue flagship.
Newmark Group files for $100M initial public offering
From TRD New York: Newmark Group filed for a $100 million initial public offering Monday in a bid to spin off from its parent company, Howard Lutnick’s BGC Partners. The filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said the entity will include the commercial brokerage Newmark Knight Frank and the mortgage firm Berkeley Point and it will be listed on the Nasdaq under the symbol NMRK. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citibank and Cantor Fitzgerald are affiliates on the deal. The New York-based Newmark Group generated revenues of $1.5 billion for the 12-month period ended June 30, 2017. Last year, NKF’s president Jimmy Kuhn said the brokerage quadrupled its revenue since it was acquired by BGC. [TRD]
Blackstone intends to double assets under management to $800B
The Blackstone Group is setting its sights on increasing its assets under management to around $800 billion in the next five years. That’s according to CEO Stephen Schwarzman who told Bloomberg on a quarterly conference call, “We have internal targets, plans, aspirations to basically double where we are.” The private equity firm had $387 billion in assets under management as of late September. That’s more than double the amount it oversaw five years ago. Real estate is the company’s largest business line, with $111.3 billion in assets under management. [TRD]
Nationwide, new-home sales hit 10-year high
Government data show that last month saw the biggest monthly gain in home sales since January 1992, due in part to a surge in the number of properties for which construction hadn’t yet started. The figures show 236,000 newly planned properties, the most since January 2007. The spike signals that residential building will strengthen in coming months, according to Bloomberg. The boom was concentrated mostly in the South, a possible reflection of growing demand following hurricanes Irma and Harvey. [TRD]
Major Market Highlights
WeWork bags Lord & Taylor iconic flagship for $850M for new HQ
Hudson’s Bay Company, succumbing to pressure unload its real estate assets, is selling Lord & Taylor’s flagship, a landmark 1914 building, to co-working giant WeWork and a partner for $850 million. WeWork Property Advisors — a joint venture with Rhône Capital, which is making a $500 million equity investment in HBC as part of the deal — is purchasing the 676,000-square-foot landmark building to become WeWork’s new global headquarters. The Real Deal first reported that WeWork and Rhône were raising several hundred million dollars for a real estate investment fund. Lord & Taylor will lease the lower floors, taking less than a quarter of its current space. The move is expected to hit after the 2018 holiday season. [TRD]
NoMad supertall at 262 Fifth Avenue gets approval from the city
The historic Manhattan neighborhood that some call NoMad — a nod to its location north of Madison Square Park — could be getting its first super tall building. Israeli developer Boris Kuzinez received approval from the city’s Department of Buildings for what could be the tallest building between Downtown and Midtown. Buildings on the lot have been demolished to make way for the 1,009-foot-tall tower with 41 apartments and an observation deck at 262 Fifth Avenue, according to New York YIMBY, which first reported on the DOB filings. [TRD]
Paramount Fort Lauderdale resi tower expected to sell out for $210M
The residential tower Paramount Fort Lauderdale Beach, which launched sales in 2014, is now completed and expected to sell out for about $210 million, broker Peggy Fucci told The Real Deal. The 95-unit, 18-story project at 701 South Atlantic Boulevard has three units remaining, including two penthouses asking $9 million and a unit on the amenity level asking $2.8 million. Records show 56 units have closed so far. About 15 percent of the building was sold to foreign buyers from Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and other countries, Fucci said. The project required 30 percent deposits, lower than the standard 50 percent required in Miami. [TRD]
Tesla takes 131K sf at Marina del Rey’s Omnicom building
Tesla is cruising into a new location in Los Angeles. Elon Musk’s electric car company signed a lease this month for the entire former Omnicom building at 4729-4755 Alla Road in Marina del Rey, The Real Deal first reported. Tesla will have 131,000 square feet of space across the four-story property, which sits on four acres of land. Tesla’s lease runs at least seven years and is valued at about $30 million, sources said. The building has been vacant since 2015, when former tenant ad agency Omnicom moved to Playa Jefferson. Grant Newman of Madison Partners, formerly of L.A. Realty Partners, was part of the listing team. [TRD]
Beverly Hills office trophy hits the market
A prized Beverly Hills office building that has not traded hands for more than 40 years hit the market last month. The Union Bank of California Building, a 97,000-square-foot building — with 24,500 square feet of street-facing retail space — has been owned by the limited partnership Beverly Union Company since 1978. The six-story building at 9460-9470 Wilshire Boulevard is 91 percent leased. Union Bank has been a tenant since it was built in 1959. The sale price of the building is expected to exceed $1,200 per square foot, Marc Renard of Cushman & Wakefield said. That would put the value of the building at over $116 million. [TRD]
Home billed as the country’s safest hits the market for $15M
A new home on the market in in Alpharetta, Georgia has all the requisite bells and whistles for an eight-bedroom mansion that’s 30 minutes from Atlanta, plus the superlative of being one of the safest homes in America. The Rice House was recently relisted for $14.7 million, down from its original $17.5 million, and is not yet complete. It was envisioned by a security architect who designed buildings for the U.S. Department of Justice for 20 years, and Bloomberg News reports the bedrooms have doors that can withstand fire from AK-47 assault rifles. There’s also a 15,000-square-foot bunker with its own power source. “This is a home where you could put a $20 million painting on the wall and sleep comfortably at night,” Paul Wegener of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International told Bloomberg. [TRD]
Vail and Aspen consolidate their ski resort empires
Vail Resorts and Aspen Skiing Co. are increasingly dominating the ski resort industry, Bloomberg News reports. They’ve acquired 50 of North America’s biggest mountain resorts in the past five years. Vail’s latest moves include buying Vermont’s Stowe and, for $1.3 billion, Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb Holdings. Aspen partnered with KSL Capital Partners to make a $1.5 billion purchase of six ski resorts throughout Canada and the U.S. from Intrawest Resort Holdings. They also acquired four additional mountain properties in California and Utah. [TRD]

Source: The Real Deal Miami

CushWake enters Broward market with new Fort Lauderdale office

The SunTrust Center office tower in Fort Lauderdale and Larry Richey, Cushman & Wakefield’s Florida market leader
Brokerage Cushman & Wakefield is expanding its reach to Broward County with the opening of its newest office in Fort Lauderdale.
This will be Cushman & Wakefield’s fourth office in South Florida, adding on to their current locations in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Miami.
The firm’s new digs will be located in the SunTrust Center at 515 East Las Olas Boulevard.
“Establishing a strong foothold in Fort Lauderdale is vital for Cushman & Wakefield’s success in South Florida,” said Larry Richey, Cushman & Wakefield’s senior managing director and Florida market leader, in a statement. “Having an office in the Fort Lauderdale CBD allows us to better serve our clients in Broward County and maintain our position as a market leader in the region.”
Both agents and support staff will call the new office home. The brokerage’s newest additions — Deanna Lobinsky, Travis Herring, Katherine Ridgway, Chase Kulp, Jeff Holding and A.J. Belt — will also set up shop there, according to a release.
Cushman & Wakefield merged with DTZ last year in a deal valued at $2 billion, forming a commercial real estate giant with 250 offices in 60 countries. — Sean Stewart-Muniz

Source: The Real Deal Miami