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Simon Property Group’s acquisition of Prime Outlets’ 22 centers for $2.33 billion was a surprise, not because the deal doesn’t make sense for the REIT, but because we assumed that we’d hear about them buying someone else first.It’s no secret that the largest mall REIT, which now has more outlet centers than anyone at 63, is vying for some or all of General Growth Properties’ assets as well. How much bigger can Simon get?The company is quickly becoming the retail real estate equivalent of Walmart. It’s already by far the largest mall owner with nearly 300 of those properties, and swallowing up all or part of GGP’s 200 malls would dwarf its largest competitors.Will we see Simon continue to buy, and is the Prime deal evidence that the retail transaction market will start to heat up?

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