Private-equity giant Blackstone (BX) has reportedly inked a deal to scoop up $9.4 billion in U.S. assets from Australia’s Centro Properties, including almost 600 shopping centers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Blackstone beat out two other rival groups with a bid that exceeds the $8 billion of debt on Melbourne-based Centro’s U.S. portfolio.

Debt-ridden Centro agreed to unload its 588 U.S. shopping centers in an effort to maintain its independence, the paper reported. The shopping centers, many of them strip malls, have tenants including grocers Kroger (KR) and Safeway (SWY), Reuters reported.

The big acquisition by Blackstone represents a vote of confidence in the U.S. commercial real-estate market, which has been slammed by the economic downturn and the financial crisis.
Blackstone’s offer reportedly trumped those from a group led by Morgan Stanley’s (MS) Morgan Stanley Real Estate and New York-based NRDC.

Centro’s sale process is being led by bankers from UBS (UBS) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Reuters reported.

Follow Matt Egan on Twitter @MattMEgan5