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GGP Hires Bankruptcy Advisor

Is the end near?

Debt-laden mall giant General Growth Properties Inc. has hired the law firm Sidley Austin as bankruptcy counsel while it negotiates with lenders for more time to restructure its $27 billion debt load.

The move doesn't mean a Chapter 11 filing is imminent. Financially distressed companies often hire bankruptcy advisers and never take that step.

General Growth declined to comment. Larry Nyhan, co-chair of Sidley Austin's bankruptcy practice, didn't return calls seeking comment.

General Growth's financial situation has steadily deteriorated this year and it's stock is trading for loose change. The company, which owns more than 200 U.S. malls, has struggled to repay debt it amassed during an acquisition binge near the market's peak. Hope has faded as retailers, in the face of slackening consumer spending, began closing stores, curbing expansion plans and, in some cases, going out of business.

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