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Simon Gives Up On 4 Struggling Malls, Negotiates Lower Price For Taubman Acquisition

The Montgomery Mall in the Philadelphia suburb of North Wales, Pennsylvania, as of 2016

Simon Property Group spent the first several months of the coronavirus pandemic outperforming its competitors in the shopping mall landlord space. Now, even the largest retail REIT in the U.S. is feeling the pandemic pain.

Simon has decided to relinquish ownership of four shopping malls to lenders that carried a combined $410M in debt, MarketWatch reports. The properties are spread out around the country and in markets of varying density: Montgomery Mall in the Philadelphia suburb of North Wales, Pennsylvania; Crystal Mall in Waterford, Connecticut; Southridge Mall in Greendale, Wisconsin; and the Mall at Tuttle Crossing in Dublin, Ohio, near Columbus.

The research arm of Kroll Bond Rating Agency, from which MarketWatch obtained information about the malls Simon is giving back, identified a further $963M in loans attached to distressed mall properties that the REIT could surrender in the next few months. 

While retail landlords have been defaulting on mortgages across the country at dizzying rates this year, Simon has remained largely above the fray thanks to deep pockets that could finance innovative moves like buying some of its failing tenants or redeveloping vacant anchor spaces at operating malls into distribution hubs.

Simon still owns some of the most valuable shopping malls in the country, such as the King of Prussia Mall, the second-largest in the country mere miles from Montgomery Mall. Such Class-A centers were performing well even as Class-B and Class-C malls were bleeding value even before the pandemic hit.

Just as Simon started to show signs of stress, news of vaccines perhaps being widely available by spring injected fresh life into retail REITs.

Another recent encouraging development is the resolution of its contentious takeover negotiations with Taubman Centers. Simon had agreed to purchase a third of the private mall owner, enough to give it a controlling interest, in February, mere weeks before the coronavirus threw the deal into chaos. Simon and Taubman reached a revised purchase deal on Sunday, just before the two were about to face off in court over the initial failed sale, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The new agreement knocked almost 20% off the purchase price from $52.50 per share to $43 per share, saving Simon nearly $800M. The ownership structure of the deal, in which the Taubman family will retain a 20% stake, was unchanged, WSJ reports.