Nexus Malls, which is owned by Blackstone Group Lp, is looking to expand its portfolio of shopping malls through aggressive acquisitions by the US-based asset manager, said a top company executive.
Nexus, which started operations in 2016, houses the retail assets of Blackstone, which is also the largest commercial office space owner in the country. Once Blackstone acquires a shopping mall, it is then brought under Nexus to operate.
With the acquisition of Bengaluru-based Prestige Group portfolio of seven shopping malls earlier this year, across 4.4 million sq ft, Nexus Malls is currently the largest mall operator in India. The company now operates 16 shopping malls, across 9.5 million sq ft in 12 cities, in north and southern India, and Bhubaneshwar in the east.
The covid-19 pandemic disrupted brick-and-mortar retail to a great extent, but shopping malls seem to have recovered from the impact of the second wave earlier this year.
“We have grown from 2 malls in 2016 to 16 malls in 2021. We are looking for national dominance, across metros and smaller cities. The plan is to aggressively acquire many more malls, but we will only acquire malls which are single owners so we have control over the entire property. The business recovery in our malls has been at over 80% in the September quarter (that we did in the same period in 2019) and we are very bullish about the future,” Jayen Naik, senior vice-president – operations and project, Nexus Malls said in an interview.
Nexus Malls aims to surpass 100% business recovery of pre-pandemic levels by end of 2021, Naik said.
During the course of the pandemic, Nexus Malls completed the transition of Prestige’s seven malls in the ‘Forum’ portfolio into its own portfolio now. These include three malls in Bengaluru - Forum mall in Koramangala, Forum Shantiniketan mall and Forum Neighbourhood mall, Forum Centre City mall in Mysuru and Forum Fiza mall, Mangalore. The other two properties - Sujana Mall in Hyderabad and Celebration in Udaipur – are also owned and operated by Nexus Malls now.
Naik said the recovery in consumption has been equitable, across categories including fashion, footwear, electronics, beauty, grocery among others.
“We are spending capex in refurbishing the malls, redoing the food courts, atriums, washrooms. We are also adding new brands and making innovative marketing plans to bring back families and children to malls. I also feel while metros are recovering well, smaller cities have recovered faster and are almost at 100% recovery,” he added.
Footfalls in the malls continue to be at 60-65% because of fewer mall visits by people and with the movie-going public not coming in large numbers. In Bengaluru, Naik said, a lot of people working in the IT sector have gone back to their hometowns.