SM to build world’s largest mall

The groundbreaking of what will become the world’s largest freestanding shopping complex has taken place in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin.

The developer is Philippine-based SM Group, the largest retail mall operator in that country. Commercial space covering 530,000sqm – that’s equal to 74 football fields – will be within the reach of shoppers from Beijing: just 30 minutes away by high-speed train or 90 minutes by car. The centre will be located within the Tianjin Economic Development Area (TEDA).

Three oval-shaped structures will be linked together by a central ring. Three of SM’s existing malls are among the 10 largest in the world, according to the news agency Xinhua. The Tianjin Shopping Center will be one third larger than its 407,000sqm SM Mall of Asia in Metro Manila. 

At the end of this year the Philippine company is expected to own 46 malls covering an area of 6.3 million sqm. The projected rate of new openings will be one per year, “with increased momentum by 2014,” according to SM Prime president Hans Sy, on the company’s website.

In a statement, the government of the Tianjin Binhai New Area, says that the company has invested US$476 million into the construction project. According to press reports, the Tianjin mall will be the heaviest investment by SM in China. Already operating SM malls are localised in Xiamen, Jinjiang (Fujian), Chengdu, and Suzhou. Other projects are underway in Chongqing, Xinxiang and Zibo (Shandong).

SM Prime Holdings is the parent company of the SM Group. It reports a growth of 15 per cent in 2011, up from 7.90 billion pesos (US$183.91 million) to 9.10 billion pesos (US$211.85 million). This is partly a result of an increased capacity in the Philippines, along with growth in same-store rental.

The founder of SM Group is the 87-year old Henry Sy, once an immigrant to the Philippines from China. He began his career in the Philippines in the 1950s by setting up a shoe store. Last year, Forbes listed Sy, with a family fortune of US$8 billion, as the Philippines’ richest man.



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