Mall owner on ban list for short sales

Shares in mall owner General Growth Properties recovered slightly on Tuesday, but only after the company that owns several major malls in Las Vegas got a gift from the government.

General Growth shares closed on the New York Stock Exchange at $17, a 5.72 percent increase from Monday’s close of $16.08, the company’s lowest stock price since 2002.

The fundamentals behind the downfall of General Growth stock — $19 billion in debt due by 2011 and no specific plan to make good — didn’t change.

What changed was that the Securities and Exchange Commission added General Growth to a growing list of companies investors are forbidden to “sell short.”

Whether government protection from short sellers can reduce investor skepticism remains to be seen. On Monday, management announced vague plans to improve the outlook, including possible asset sales. quoted a report by Bank of America analyst Christy McElroy and Samit Parikh: “In our view, more drastic steps to raise equity and reduce debt levels are necessary to shore up confidence in the stock price.”

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