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NEW YORK CITY-William Ackman thinks retail is a good bet. The founder of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management is even big on Sears.

The investor bases his views, he says, on a retail economy that’s doing better than most people think. “We think store-closure fears were over blown,” he said at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ New York Conference.

Ackman is also big on retail REIT firms and said his outfit has acquired a sizable portion of bankrupt mall owner General Growth Properties. Both retail REITs and their tenants are greatly improving their debt situations, he said.

In fact, Ackman repeatedly referenced Simon Property Group as an example of a favorable operator. The largest mall owner in the country, Indianapolis-based Simon is supposedly vying to acquire part or some of GGP.

Ackman is also big on beleaguered retailer Sears Holdings and its chairman, also a hedge-fund specialist, Edward Lampert. Even though the department-store chain and its discounter Kmart is performing poorly, “he’s going to be running a little mall within your mall,” Ackman said. “He understands the value of what he has.”

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