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Report: Las Vegas, High Point Showrooms Could Merge

HIGH POINT, N.C. - Speculation is rampant that the main furniture market showroom buildings in Las Vegas and High Point could soon merge under a single owner, a Charlotte commercial real estate firm with close ties to the furniture industry has told its clients.
     In a newsletter sent to clients last week, principals at The Stump Cos. said the "rumored merger" of the World Market Center in Las Vegas and several High Point showroom buildings was a frequent topic of discussion at last month's Las Vegas Market.
     "If the rumors are true ... we look forward to hearing the thesis of why this makes long-term sense and how the furniture industry will benefit," the newsletter said. It said "many exhibitors are awaiting answers" about issues such as showroom rental rates, the timing of the High Point and Las Vegas markets, as well as whether the industry needs both of the semiannual markets.
     "We hope this transaction is more than a financial reshuffling and the results contribute to the long-term stability of our industry," the newsletter read.
     Speculation about a possible sale of several High Point showroom buildings has been widespread in the industry in recent weeks. The Stump newsletter was published on the heels of Bassett Furniture's disclosure that it is negotiations to sell its 46.9% stake in the International Home Furnishings Center.
     In a press release in late January, Bassett didn't identify the potential buyer, but said it would be part of a simultaneous sale of all interests in the IHFC to that buyer. Bassett said it hoped to complete the sale by the end of February. The IHFC is High Point's largest showroom complex. Buildings owned by Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. and Showplace are the second and third biggest complexes, respectively, but their owners have defaulted on loans on those properties. The rumored merger could involve all of those buildings, along with the WMC, the Stump newsletter said.
     Showplace has been operating under receivership since August 2009 and the MMPI properties were placed in receivership last October.
     Last year, the World Market Center defaulted on mortgages for buildings A and B, but WMC officials have said the properties are not in foreclosure proceedings.

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