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Simon rival General Growth exits Chapter 11

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Shopping mall owner General Growth Properties Inc. on Tuesday emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, bringing to a close the largest real estate bankruptcy case in U.S. history.

The Chicago-based company said it has completed the final steps of its financial restructuring, 19 months after it turned to the courts under the weight of nearly $28 billion in debt.

General Growth exits bankruptcy with more than 183 regional malls in 43 states — a retail portfolio second only to Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc., which failed in its bid to scoop up its rival earlier this year.

"Today marks the successful end of one chapter in (General Growth's) history and the beginning of another," CEO Adam Metz said in a statement.

During the bankruptcy process, the company lined up $6.8 billion in equity commitments and restructured and extended $15 billion in debt. It also worked out a way to pay all creditors in full — a rare outcome in bankruptcy cases.

As part of the restructuring, General Growth split into two separate companies: General Growth Properties and The Howard Hughes Corp., which owns General Growth's portfolio of planned communities and other real estate development opportunities. Pershing Square Capital Management CEO William Ackman will become chairman of the Hughes spinoff.

Some of its properties include Bridgewater Commons in N.J., South Street Seaport in New York City and Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston.

The company also said Wednesday it launched a public stock offering of 135 million shares, worth nearly $2.35 billion based on Tuesday's closing stock price of $17.39. General Growth plans to use the proceeds to buy back shares issued to Brookfield Asset Management, Fairholme Funds Inc., Pershing Square Capital Management and Teacher Retirement System of Texas for the billions in capital they put up as part of the reorganization.

General Growth's financing agreement with that investor group had included a provision that gave the mall owner the option to replace up to $2.15 billion in capital with the proceeds of equity issued at more favorable price. Any additional proceeds from the stock offering will be used for general corporate purposes.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Deutsche Bank Securities are serving as joint global coordinators for the offering. The underwriters will have an option to purchase an additional 20.25 million shares in the event demand exceeds inital supply.

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