By Alex Veiga
AP Real Estate Writer
Los Angeles (AP) — Shopping mall operator General Growth Properties Inc. will have four more months to sort out its exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and weigh buyout offers.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper in New York extended the period the company — which owns three malls in Wisconsin — has to exclusively file a reorganization plan through July 15, about six weeks less than the company had initially requested.
Still, CEO Adam Metz said he is pleased with the decision. He said the abbreviated period won’t alter the company’s plans to work through its debt and field offers to buy the company.
“We’re going to do our best to accomplish what we need to accomplish within the time frame,” Metz said.
General Growth, the nation’s second-largest shopping mall operator, racked up $27 billion in debt by the time it sought shelter from creditors last April, making it the largest real estate bankruptcy case in U.S. history.
General Growth owns or manages 200 shopping malls in 44 states. In Wisconsin, the company owns Fox River Mall in Appleton, Oakwood Mall in Eau Claire and Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa.
Last month, General Growth rejected a $10 billion takeover offer by rival shopping mall giant Simon Property Group Inc. that valued the company at about $9 a share.
General Growth is looking for a higher offer and has put forward a plan to exit bankruptcy with an investment from Canadian property manager Brookfield Asset Management Inc. The plan values the company at $15 a share.
Despite being initially rebuffed, Indianapolis-based Simon has signed the nondisclosure agreement and has begun looking at the company’s books.
Simon issued a statement Wednesday praising the court’s decision. “The court has made it abundantly clear that General Growth must now conduct a truly fair process with all parties on a level playing field,” according to the statement.
To date, General Growth has restructured about $12.1 billion in secured debt and company officials said they expect to finalize agreements for another $1.5 billion soon.
That would leave about $1.3 billion in secured debt to work out and $7 billion in unsecured debt.