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General Growth Properties reports wider loss

6 November 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Mall owner General Growth Properties reported a wider quarterly loss and lower operating results in the third quarter and faces a rocky fiscal future, according to managers who held a conference call Wednesday to discuss earnings.

General Growth, which is the second-largest company of its kind in the country and owns several high-profile malls in Las Vegas, posted a third-quarter loss of $15.4 million, or 6 cents per share, in the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $9.4 million, or 4 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company, with a portfolio that includes Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, Shoppes at Palazzo, Fashion Show, Boulevard and Meadows malls, saw funds from operation, a key financial performance measure for real estate investment trusts, fall 11 percent to $185.4 million from $208.4 million.

Revenue fell 5.7 percent to $814.7 million from $864.2 million.

Fallout from the difficult quarter was exacerbated by an announcement from management that tough times could continue well into 2009 and that it may be a while before dividend payouts resume.

The result was a steep decline in the value of shares in the company, which had already lost about 90 percent of their value in recent months.

"Right now, the most important thing for the company is to fix our balance sheet," said Adam Metz, who became General Growth's interim chief executive last month during an overhaul of the upper management.

Metz also said the company hasn't found buyers for the Shoppes at Palazzo, the Grand Canal Shoppes or Fashion Show mall, which it put up for sale around the time of the management changes.

"Debt capital is an extraordinarily scarce resource." Metz said.

During the conference call financial analysts unsuccessfully pressed General Growth officials for details on plans to right the ship, to no avail.

Metz and the others on the call said they wouldn't release information on deals the company makes to maintain debt on individual malls. Instead they intend to provide aggregate information on the company as a whole.

"In all these negotiations on debt ... they just didn't want to disclose anything," said Rich Moore of RBC Capital Markets. "I thought they could have been a little more specific on some of the things they were working on."

Moore said it makes sense company officials would want to keep mum on numbers related to specific deals, but also that it would be helpful for investors to know whether there were any suitors for the Las Vegas malls General Growth says it will sell.

General Growth shares fell $2.24, or 49.89 percent, Wednesday, to close at $2.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.