Deal or no deal?

That’s what investors in Santa Monica mall operator Macerich Co. want to know, and they appear to be running low on patience.

Fellow shopping mall developer Simon Property Group Inc. in Indianapolis announced in November that it had built up a 3.6 percent stake in Macerich. The stock spiked, as observers believed that could be the precursor to a potential offer, which came March 9. Simon offered $91 a share for Macerich.

But Macerich rejected the deal, saying it significantly undervalued the company, and reconfigured its board in a defensive posture designed to prevent a hostile takeover.

Simon slammed the move in a same-day response, calling it an “extreme, scorched-earth response” in a statement on its website.

Still, the move didn’t deter Simon from its pursuit and the company March 20 upped its bid to $95.50 a share, for a total offer valued at $23.2 billion, including the assumption of $6.4 billion of Macerich debt.

But instead of soaring after the sweetened offer, Macerich shares fell the day of Simon’s new offer and continued to slide in the days following. Shares dropped 5.6 percent to $87.02 during the week ended March 25, making Macerich one of the biggest losers on the LABJ Stock Index. (See Page 36.)

Ki Bin Kim, who covers Macerich in the New York office of Atlanta investment bank SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, said language in Simon’s most recent offer might have spooked Macerich investors.

Simon said this was its best and final offer and gave Macerich an April 1 deadline to discuss the deal, or the offer would be withdrawn. Kim said that made Macerich shareholders pessimistic about the deal’s chances.

But Kim isn’t ready to declare the deal dead yet.

“Based on brief conversations we had with Macerich and conversations we had with others in the investment community, we think it is likely that Macerich management eventually takes a small step forward,” Kim wrote in a March 20 research note. “Maybe a deal never happens, but we would not be surprised to see Macerich at least engage Simon in discussion.”

Kim also wrote that even if no deal ends up materializing, Macerich’s shares shouldn’t fall all the way back to previous levels, taking the significant premium offered by Simon into account. The stock was trading below $70 a share before Simon first disclosed its ownership stake in the company and has traded for as much as $95.93 a share in recent weeks.

Macerich did not respond to the Business Journal’s request for comment.

A real estate investment trust, Macerich owns and operates retail centers including the Oaks in Thousand Oaks and Santa Monica Place.

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