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Early in 2018, the company took its Calgary Market Mall off the market.Handout

Ivanhoé Cambridge Inc. has halted the partial sale of 10 Canadian malls after the real estate company failed to get the price it wanted, according to a person familiar with the matter.

This is the second time in two years that Ivanhoé has stopped a sale because of tepid interest. Early in 2018, the company took its Calgary Market Mall off the market. A spokesman for Ivanhoé declined to comment.

It comes as retailers navigate a rapidly changing landscape that has seen traditional bricks and mortar stores such as Sears Canada file for bankruptcy and property owners race to turn their malls into destinations for other activities, not only shopping.

Ivanhoé, the real estate company of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, was seeking to sell a 50-per-cent non-managing interest in top performing malls Vaughan Mills north of Toronto and Conestoga Mall in Waterloo, Ont., as well as up to 100 per cent in eight other shopping centres from Victoria to Quebec City.

But after about six months on the market, Ivanhoé took down the for-sale sign. The malls had been appraised at a higher price than potential buyers were willing to spend, according to the person familiar with the matter. The source was granted anonymity by The Globe and Mail because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter.

“Obviously, if there was a significant interest, there would have been a transaction. But maybe the timing wasn’t right. Big companies are always in a state of flux,” said Michael Kehoe, founder of Fairfield Commercial Real Estate and a mall expert who was not involved in the sale.

Ivanhoé, which held about $65-billion in assets as of the end of 2018, also owns office buildings and apartments in the Americas and shopping centres in Brazil, Germany and China, as well as the Fairmont Château Frontenac in Quebec City.

It was seeking to cash in on a handful of its profitable malls and use some of the proceeds to invest in other parts of its real estate portfolio.

The company is spending $500-million this year upgrading its malls. It is overhauling part of its Montreal Eaton Centre into a market for restaurants, bars and chefs – with cooking classes and cooking demonstrations – and it is renovating part of Vaughan Mills into a recreational hub for bungee jumping and other activities.

Other property owners are also updating their shopping centres.

RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust is developing some of its Toronto malls into a mix of retail, apartments and offices. SmartCentres Real Estate Investment Trust is reconstructing dozens of its shopping plazas across the country into mixed-use areas of retail, office buildings, condos and apartments.

“Shopping centres are in a constant state of change,” Mr. Kehoe said. Retail is not evolving just toward distribution centres and e-commerce. Some online businesses such as Casper mattress have sought physical space for their merchandise.

Ivanhoé owns 28 malls in Canada, 17 shopping centres in Brazil, as well as one in China and another in Germany.

As part of the 10 properties it was trying to divest, Ivanhoé wanted to sell its recently built Tsawwassen Mills, an outlet mall near one of the Vancouver area’s ferry terminals and the U.S. border.

In addition, Ivanhoé was trying sell partial or entire stakes in the following: Guildford Town Centre in Surrey, B.C.; CrossIron Mills north of Calgary’s business district; Deerfoot Meadows in Calgary; Mayfair Shopping Centre in Victoria; Outlet Collection at Niagara; Place Montreal Trust in Montreal and Place Ste-Foy in Quebec City.

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