Morgan Stanley Ups Stake in Struggling General Growth

Morgan Stanley has become the second investor to take a large stake in General Growth Properties Inc., the struggling mall operator headquartered in Chicago. Morgan Stanley bought more than 13.6 million shares, upping its stake in the company from 3 percent to 5.1 percent. General Growth’s stock price closed yesterday at 94 cents. At mid-morning today, it had risen to $1.35. Last month, Pershing Square Capital Management, a New York City-based hedge fund managed by William Ackman, bought just over 20 million shares or a 7.5 percent stake in GGP. The Morgan Stanley move followed an agreement, reported Monday by CPN, between General Growth and a six-lender consortium to extend the maturity date for $900 million in mortgage loans on two of three General Growth malls in Las Vegas. In an attempt to raise cash, the mall operator has put both of those properties, the Fashion Show and Palazzo malls, up for sale, along with a third Las Vegas center, Grand Canal Shoppes. General Growth owes approximately $27 billion, a debt load created to finance acquisitions, including its $12.6 billion acquisition of the Rouse Co. in 2004. The company faces an onerous schedule of maturing loans. About $3.3 billion will come due in 2009, followed by another $4.5 billion in 2010 and $8.4 billion in 2011. The company has retained the law firm of Sidley Austin as its bankruptcy counsel.