With its $2 billion buyout of TV maker Vizio DOA, its CFO throwing in the towel and reports of missed payrolls at its Yidao Yongche ride hailing app, LeEco has had a rough month. And now entrepreneur Jia Yueting’s mainland tech player is said to be selling a Beijing shopping centre to raise some badly needed cash.
Having acquired the 50,000 square metre (538,000 square foot) Shimao Gongsan mall from developer Shimao Group last June in a RMB 2.97 billion ($424 million) deal, LeEco has been in discussions for months to sell all or a majority of the Chaoyang district retail property, according to sources cited by Reuters.
Should LeEco succeed in selling off the project just north of the Worker’s Stadium in Beijing’s Sanlitun area, it would mark the second time that the once high-flying group has sold recently acquired real estate assets as it struggles to meet day to day financial obligations.
LeEco is Still Hard Up for Cash
With Beijing real estate values surfing a wave of investor interest, LeEco should find interested suitors for its Shimao Gongsan asset, but it could be pressed for time.
LeEco may have three or four buyers negotiating a deal, Eason Yan, head of investment in North China at international property consultancy Savills in Beijing, told Mingtiandi, but could end up going with whoever is quickest to sign a check. “We don’t know who they are choosing, but they have the option to maybe choose the quickest,” Yan said. “They have a choice and timing is very important because they need money.”
The billionaire behind LeEco, Jia Yueting, admitted late last year that the company was looking for cash and, in a token gesture, cut his salary to RMB 1 ($0.15). Rumors of LeEco’s cash-starved status only spread further when it was reported that the company’s US-based Faraday Future factory for electric cars received complaints from creditors – and from the Nevada state treasurer.
Mainland developer Sunac stepped in with a $2.2 billion bailout of LeEco in January of this year, but even that stack of cash appears to have been insufficient. Last month it was reported that LeEco was selling a 49 acre project in Silicon Valley which it bought from Yahoo in June last year — the same month that it acquired Shimao Gongsan Plaza. LeEco bought the land for $250 million and was selling it for $260 million to China’s Genzon Group.
A Prime Location near Beijing’s Shopping Enclave
“There aren’t many chances in Beijing [to buy] in a prime location,” said Yan, who added that buyers in Beijing are eager for prime locations. Anchored by the Shimao Department Store, the mall is located in a high-traffic area in Beijing’s east. Just a short walk away from the Shimao Gongsan is Swire Property’s successful Taikoo Li Sanlitun.
While the Shimao Gongsan site is near Taikoo Li and just north of a major entertainment and sports venue, it’s also just a 300 meter walk away from Sanlitun’s Yashow, once a tourist must-see retail center known for knock-offs and sundries. Not long ago teeming with tourist buses and haggling, the location got a ten-month makeover in 2015 before re-emerging as a run-of-the-mill shopping mall and has suffered since, with tenants crying for refunds and others pulling out altogether.
As a department store-anchored project in an era when the “all things to all people” format is struggling to survive in China, Shimao Gongsan Plaza has perhaps more in common with the relaunched Yashow than it does with Taikoo Li. One Beijing-based retail veteran indicated to Mingtiandi that the shopping mall, which debuted in early 2012, has struggled to attract tenants. The centre’s retail mix includes an Adidas Y-3 shop, a supermarket operated by Japanese retailer Ito-Yokado, and Beijing’s first Hello Kitty restaurant.
Although real estate is far from the company’s core interest, famous for its electric car ambitions among other things, LeEco is said to have been involved in investing RMB 3 billion ($435 million) in a hotel and apartment project in Chongqing in March of last year.