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by Omaha.com

Mall owners including Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties, the biggest in the U.S., are signaling they’re moving on from struggling retail centers as the economic rebound drives them to focus on the best-performing markets.

A $94 million loan on a South Dakota mall owned by Simon, the largest U.S. real estate investment trust, or REIT, was transferred last month to a special servicer, which negotiates with landlords on behalf of bondholders. General Growth had three malls with loan-workout firms in the third quarter, and Glimcher Realty Trust handed over a loan on a mall in its hometown of Columbus, Ohio, to a special servicer in October.

Mall landlords were the second-best-performing U.S. REIT group last year, gaining 26 percent, even as the delinquency rate for retail properties remains close to the April 2011 peak, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The operators are focusing on the most lucrative markets, while turning to special servicers or even giving properties back to lenders in a sign that some shopping centers may never fully recover from the real estate crash.

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