General Growth files for bankruptcy protection

New York City General Growth Properties, the second largest U.S. mall owner, filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday in one of the biggest real estate failures in U.S. history.

Ending months of speculation, the Chicago-based mall owner, which listed total assets of $29.56 billion and total debts of $27.29 billion, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors, along with 158 of its more than 200 U.S. malls, while it seeks to restructure some of its debt.

Since November, General Growth has warned that it may have to seek protection from its creditors when it was unable to refinance maturing mortgages.

The company said in a statement that it planned to continue exploring strategic alternatives during the bankruptcy protection, from which it is seeking to emerge as quickly as possible through a reorganization that preserves its national business.

General Growth's filing in the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan makes it one of the largest nonfinancial companies to succumb to the financial crisis in the United States.

Before the bankruptcy-protection filing, the company had defaulted on several mortgages, as well as a series of bonds. It has also put several of its flagship properties up for sale.

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