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CHICAGO-After rumors circulated Thursday about a deal between creditors and General Growth Properties Inc., the company has confirmed and clarified reports. The retail-focused company is likely to emerge from bankruptcy before the year ends, months earlier than experts previously predicted.

“We are extremely pleased to reach this consensual agreement with lenders representing more than half of the mortgage debt covered by the bankruptcy proceedings,” says Thomas Nolan, president and COO, in a statement.

In a release, GGP officials say they have reached an agreement with lenders to restructure $8.9 billion of secured mortgage loans. The loans now have an average maturity of 6.4 years from January 1, 2010. The first loans will mature in January of 2014. For the 70 loans that are part of this deal, the weighted average contract interest rate is 5.35%, while the all-in-interest rate, after amortization of fees paid, is 5.54%.

“We believe that these agreements provide a basis for consensually completing a restructuring of the debtors’ remaining approximately $6 billion of secured mortgage loans and we are hopeful that our other secured mortgage lenders will work with us to reach agreements quickly,” Nolan says. “We are working with the unsecured creditors committee, the equity committee and other constituents to resolve the restructuring of our corporate level debt and equity and believe that these agreements with our mortgage lenders represent an important step toward establishing a long term capital structure for GGP.”

Should the restructuring receive final approvals and meet necessary conditions, GGP could be emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier than initially expected, and as early as the end of the year. Initially, the debtors were granted until February and April 2010 to present and obtain acceptance of a reorganization plan. But the company isn’t waiting for the deadlines to approach, instead the complete restructuring plan will be filed with the court “expeditiously.”

Greg Cross, partner at Secured Creditors Venable, who is working on the deal, tells GlobeSt.com that the company could emerge from bankruptcy “any time after confirmation” is granted. Cross was unable to say more about the deal.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in April, listing 166 regional shopping malls in the filing with the Bankruptcy Court in Southern District of New York. GGP currently owns or manages more than 200 shopping malls in 44 states.

With the company’s pending re-emergence onto the scene, it remains to be seen if Simon Property Group Inc. will still make a bid to purchase all or some of GGP. As GlobeSt.com reported earlier in the week, the Indianapolis-based company has hired investment adviser Lazard Ltd. and law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to study a potential bid.

However during an investors’ earnings call in August, when the GGP reported its Q1 and Q2 numbers, company executives said there were no plans in place for a massive property sell-off. They did say that the sale of one or two iconic structures, such as Water Tower Place here in Chicago, might be necessary.

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