Not bankrupt quite yet …

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, December 15, 2008

Last week we looked at Porter Stansberry’s Put Strategy and his assertion that General Growth Properties would go belly-up last Friday. Well, that mortgage debt of $900 million that came due on Friday for a couple of their Las Vegas malls still hasn’t been extended, renegotiated, or repaid, but the company hasn’t gone bankrupt yet. Investors got a little bit optimistic on Friday because they were able to renegotiate some other debt that they hold, but were just as pessimistic today after the weekend passed without a deal. Here’s the story, in brief.

Some investors think now is the perfect time to get into some REITs, particularly those that have been beaten up more than their competitors — there are a few like that in the mall space, companies like Macerich that Stansberry thinks you should buy puts on to ride the downside. I’d guess we’re looking at several months of volatility for these shares, and probably both some bargains and some bankruptcies in the REIT sector. Which is a bargain and which will be bankrupt is a tougher question: Who’s got the most leverage, with debt coming due too soon for them to recover? Who’s most sensitive to a weak consumer or depressed region of the country?

A few of those beaten-down REITs were lauded on CNBC late Friday — including Macerich, Duke Realty, and Simon Property Group … we’ll see.