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Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Aliansce Shopping Centers SA, Brazil’s most-expensive mall stock, is heading for a record monthly decline as retail sales falter and traders wager the central bank will raise interest rates to stem inflation.
Aliansce lost 9.4 percent from Jan. 31 through yesterday, exceeding the Bovespa index’s 6 percent slide and setting up the worst monthly drop since it first sold shares in January 2010. The stock beat the index in each of the past three years, driving its price to 26 times estimated 2013 earnings, the most among Brazil’s 10 biggest real-estate management companies.
Shopping center operators from Aliansce to Multiplan Empreendimentos Imobiliarios SA are falling as central bank President Alexandre Tombini signals readiness to boost record- low rates to tame inflation running at a one-year high. Rising consumer prices also contributed to an unexpected decrease in retail sales in December.
“Consumers are a bit more apprehensive to go shopping,” said Sandra Peres, an analyst at Coinvalores Corretora de Valores in Sao Paulo. “Retail will still grow, but it won’t be as strong as 2011 and before.”
Inflation as measured by the IPCA index, which quickened to 6.15 percent last month, topped the 4.5 percent midpoint of the central bank’s target range for the past 29 months. Retail sales fell 0.5 percent in December from a month earlier, below estimates from all 28 economists in a Bloomberg survey. On a year-over-year basis, sales grew 5 percent, the slowest holiday- season expansion since 2008.
“Spending in December was abysmal,” said Daniel Snowden, an Informa Global Markets analyst who projected year-over-year retail sales growth of 7 percent. “If interest rates do go up, that will have a large impact on Brazilian consumers because so much of their spending is based on borrowing.”
Even small increases in loan costs can have a “proportionally larger effect on Brazilian spending power,” he said in an interview from London. “They need to increase rates to deal with inflation issues, but they could derail one of the few sectors that is still seeing growth.”
Multiplan, the second most-expensive Brazilian mall operator with a price-to-earnings ratio of 24, has declined 8.1 percent this year. BR Malls Participacoes SA and BR Properties SA are also down. All three stocks have rallied in the past three years.
Aliansce rose 2 percent, the most in four weeks, to 23.42 reais at the close in Sao Paulo. Multiplan rose 1.1 percent to 55.90 reais, while BR Malls gained 0.4 percent to 25.64 reais and BR Properties jumped 2.6 percent to 24.57 reais.
Swap rates show bets are increasing that the benchmark Selic lending rate will rise. Traders interpreted recent comments from the central bank’s president as leaving the door open for increases in the rate, now at 7.25 percent.
“When necessary, if supported by the prospective scenario for inflation, the posture of the central bank in relation to monetary policy will be adequately adjusted,” Tombini said this week at an event in Brasilia.
“You have a process of macroeconomic deterioration,” Juan Jensen, a partner at consultant Tendencias Consultoria Integrada, said by telephone from Sao Paulo. Supermarket prices, which make up the largest part of the retail sales index, accelerated. “The consumer had to hold back on other goods. That is one reason Christmas wasn’t so robust.”
Mall operators, meanwhile, are bracing for another record year, betting that accelerating inflation won’t curb spending. Developers will build 47 new malls in 2013, almost twice last year’s record of 27, the Brazilian Shopping Centers Association said. Companies from San Francisco-based Gap Inc. to London’s TopShop and local seller Hering SA are opening stores in Brazil.
Henrique Cordeiro Guerra, executive director and investor relations director at Aliansce, said the Rio de Janeiro-based company doesn’t expect higher interest rates. Full employment, real growth in salaries and increased spending power for low- income consumers provide “a good environment,” he said.
Retailers are indicating that they will open more stores than malls in 2013, a sign that the market still has plenty of room to grow, said Luiz Alberto Quinta, commercial and developments director at BR Malls.
“We continue to be very enthusiastic about the development of new malls because there is still a lot of demand from retailers,” he said in a telephone interview. Rio de Janeiro- based BR Malls opened 119,000 square meters (1.28 million square feet) across five new malls in Brazil last year, and expects to add 100,000 square meters in 2013.
A rate increase may also lure investors from the relative safety of real-estate shares in favor of higher-yielding bonds, said Eduardo Silveira, an analyst at BES Securities in Sao Paulo. Shopping-center stocks provide a refuge from inflation when rates are low because store rents are typically locked in for at least five years and indexed to consumer prices, he said.
“When rates go up, stocks suffer,” Silveira said. “The correlation has been very high in the past. When rates fall, stocks go up.”
--Editors: Jessica Brice, Ed Dufner