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by Kris Hudson

Chicago, IL – After a tumultuous first year as chief executive of General Growth Properties Inc., Sandeep Mathrani is about to make perhaps his boldest move yet: The shopping-mall owner later this month is set to spin off 30 of its weaker malls as a separate company.

General Growth executives tout the separation as a means for General Growth to focus its resources on its remaining 137 best-performing malls. The spinoff, to be called Rouse Properties Inc., then can concentrate on buying and rehabilitating so-called B malls, which mostly are lower-productivity malls in secondary and tertiary markets.

The spinoff caps a year in which Mr. Mathrani and his team grappled with shoring up occupancy at General Growth’s malls, refinancing some of its $18 billion debt load and signing retailers at higher lease rates—to mixed reactions from analysts and investors. On Tuesday, General Growth’s stock added 22 cents, or 1.5%, to $15.24 in 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading, slightly above the $14.75-a-share price of its sale of stock after exiting from bankruptcy in November 2010.

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