Short Selling Banned on General Growth

General Growth Properties was added to the list of companies that are now being protected against short sales. What started as a list of banks is becoming diverse very quickly.

The second-largest owner of regional malls in the country has seen its stock price take a big hit in the past couple of weeks. Yesterday morning it had announced it was pursuing strategic alternatives. Its stock hit a 52-week low on Thursday of $13.37 per share. (That's pretty incredible considering that as recently as March 2007, its stock was at $67.00 per share). After Thursday's low point, the stock then rallied all the way back up to $25.06 per share when the market opened on Friday. On Monday the stock opened at $20.60 per share before dropping to $16.08 per share by the end of the day. Today the stock has bounced back a bit. As I'm writing this it's at $17.65 per share--up about 9 percent. Given recent volatility, it's hard to know where its headed.

In the current environment, it's hard to imagine General Growth being bought out. It's stock price is low enough that it would have to get a very big premium from its bidder to make it worthwhile for shareholders. Will it pursue asset sales? It's hard to say. The company has maintained that it remains able to get financing--even if it has to offer more recourse.

U.S. regulators added nine companies including General Growth Properties Inc. and the government-sponsored enterprise known as Farmer Mac to the list of stocks temporarily protected against short sales.

The additions today bring to 926 the number of protected companies, exchange data show. General Growth is the second- largest owner of U.S. malls, and Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp. provides financing to farmers, ranchers and rural homeowners. At least two companies, Diamond Hill Investment Group and ``boutique'' investment bank JMP Group Inc., have opted off the list.


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