Ackman:General Growth Properties sale to Simon would be best

NEW YORK, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Hedge fund manager William Ackman, who has been pushing mall operator General Growth Properties to sell itself, on Monday said a deal with rival Simon Property Group would be beneficial to all parties and push the stock price dramatically higher.

"A Simon merger is substantially superior to GGP remaining independent," Ackman said at the 8th annual Value Investing Congress on Monday.

A Simon spokesman declined comment on Monday on Ackman's remarks.

But last month, Simon CFO Stephen Sterrett said at the Barclays Capital Global Financial Services Conference, in response to a question about it: "We have not made an offer for General Growth or its properties since 2010 during GGP's bankruptcies. Nor have we subsequently agreed" on a value for the company, he added.

"We have no interest in General Growth," Sterrett said on Sept. 11 at the Barclays conference.

In August, Ackman began urging General Growth to sell itself, and perhaps more importantly, prevent Brookfield Asset Management - which helped pull General Growth out of bankruptcy in 2010 and now owns a 42 percent stake - from taking full control without paying more for it.

Ackman said that if a deal between Simon and GGP were closed today, the stock should be trading at $29 at the end of the year. That would represent a dramatic increase from GGP's closing stock price on Monday of $19.

After scooping up General Growth stock early and hanging on through bankruptcy, Ackman has already become very rich on General Growth. He has earned a 77-fold return on the investment. But that does not mean he is ready to throw General Growth to the sidelines, Ackman insisted in August.

Simon showed some interest in buying GGP a year ago.

On Monday, Ackman told some 500 people attending the conference that this would be an extremely good deal for Simon.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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