CBL, shopping mall giant, files for bankruptcy

CBL's retail tenants include JCPenney and Dick's Sporting Goods

CBL Properties, which counts big retailers including JC Penney and Dick's Sporting Goods as tenants, has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to a company filing despite making an effort in August with its creditors to stave off bankruptcy.

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The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company filed in the Southern District Court of Texas to allow it to keep operating while it attempts to fix its finances. This comes in large part because of a weakened U.S. economy and consumers increasingly turning to online shopping due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Shares of CBL have been under pressure since the start of the year and have lost nearly 95% of their value, as bankruptcy edged closer for the shopping mall operator.

In the filing, CBL said it estimated its assets between $1 billion and $10 billion, with its estimated liabilities around the same levels.

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Bloomberg was the first to report news of the Chapter 11 filing.

In mid-August, CBL said it entered into a "comprehensive restructuring" that allowed it to get rid of $900 million worth of debt and at least $600 million in additional expenses, according to a company filing.

CBL is one of the largest landlords in the country, owning 108 commercial properties, totaling 68.2 million square feet in 26 states, according to its website. One of its largest renters, J.C. Penney, has already filed for bankruptcy, amid a cash crunch.

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In mid-October, J.C. Penney CEO Jill Soltau said the company moved one step closer to exiting the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process ahead of the holiday season.

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The announcement comes as coronavirus-linked bankruptcies rise for corporations. According to data compiled by legal service firm Epiq, 5,529 U.S. businesses -- including 747 in September -- have sought relief in bankruptcy courts this year, up 33% over 2019 levels.

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Fox Business Lucas Manfredi and Daniella Genovese contributed to this story.

US commercial bankruptcies up 33% amid coronavirus pandemic