Ackman drops push for sale of mall operator
By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Sagarika and Jaisinghani
(Reuters) - After months of trying to play matchmaker between the two largest U.S. shopping mall operators, activist investor William Ackman reversed course on Thursday, saying he is no longer pushing for a sale because one party didn't want to buy.
Since late August, Ackman has argued publicly and often that No. 1 mall operator Simon Property Group (SPG) (SPG.N: Quote) should bid for slightly smaller rival General Growth Properties (GGP)(GGP.N: Quote), the second-largest mall operator after Simon first made noise about a possible bid for GGP in 2011.
But with no signs of a deal, Ackman, whose $11 billion Pershing Square Capital Management owns an 8 percent stake in GGP, declared himself satisfied with the status quo and said he would return to being a passive investor.
The move comes at a time Ackman is devoting fresh energy to his fight with supplements company Herbalife (HLF.N: Quote), which he has called a pyramid scheme.
For Ackman, the efforts with the mall operators were close to his heart. Pershing Square's investment in GGP still ranks as the fund's most lucrative ever, providing a 77-fold return after the stock was bought years ago and held through bankruptcy.
A sale to Simon would have helped push GGP's stock price even higher and perhaps prevented Brookfield Asset Management, which owns a 42 percent stake in GGP, from taking full control without paying for it, Ackman argued in regulatory filings and at public conferences.
In October, Ackman said that if a deal were closed between Simon and GGP at that time, the stock price should be trading at $29 a share by year's end.
But General Growth's shares rose only 9 percent since Ackman first urged the company to consider a sale and were trading at $19.41 on Thursday. Continued...