Troubled mall owner goes up for sale

January 2, 2008

A giant Australian shopping mall company with four Indianapolis properties has put itself up for sale after a buying spree of U.S. malls drove it into financial problems.

Centro Properties Group said today it is "evaluating options" to secure its financial viability. The company has a deadline of Feb. 15 to refinance $3.4 billion in debt it used to buy the U.S. properties. Shares in the publicly traded company lost 89 percent in 2007.

The sale of Centro-which has more than 650 U.S. shopping centers in 40 states -could draw interest from locally based mall powerhouse Simon Property Group.

Most of Centro's $14 billion in U.S. properties are in older strip centers anchored by grocery or Kmart-style stores, but the portfolio has gems, including new lifestyle centers in an Atlanta suburb and in West Palm Beach, Fla.

In Indianapolis, Centro owns Westlane Shopping Center on North Michigan Road and Marwood Plaza Shopping Center on Kentucky Avenue. In Speedway, it owns Speedway Super Center, and in Carmel, Meridian Village Plaza.

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