Centro Wins Another Debt Extension

Centro Properties, which has struggled with debt since the early days of the credit crunch, has managed to keep the wolf at the door at bay a little longer, negotiating a new deadline of December 15 to deal with some its debt. About $2.7 billion in debt–mostly owed to Australian creditors–is affected by the new deadline. Another part of Centro’s overall debt, about $450 million owed to U.S. creditors, has also been extended to September 30, as a result of the aforementioned agreement with the company’s other creditors on the December deadline. “The extensions provide us with breathing space,” a spokesperson for Centro told CPN. “Centro continues to be focused on running the underlying businesses, which are performing well, and to work on the previously announced sale of investments in our wholesale funds, Centro Australia Wholesale Fund and Centro America Fund. The company is also considering sales of portfolios or individual assets.” And Centro now has more time to pursue such asset sales to deal with its debt, rather than be obliged to sell them at fire-sale prices. As previously reported by CPN, Centro amassed its debt back in 2006 and 2007 during an acquisition spree that, among other things, resulted in the company becoming a major retail landlord in the United States. The sudden drying up of CMBS financing last year, however, left Centro with no way to refinance its acquisition-related debt. Its stock price tanked late last year, and hasn’t remotely recovered to the level it once traded at, nearly $10 a share; at the close of the market today in Australia, it was trading at 36 cents a share. Though the company has won another extension, Centro’s troubles aren’t limited to debt issues. It also faces shareholder lawsuits, accusing it of misleading investors about the size and nature of its debts.