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File Photo / CBL President Stephen Lebovitz

With Hamilton Place, Northgate and many of its other shopping centers closed, CBL Properties on Wednesday tapped substantially all of its available credit line to preserve the company's liquidity.

The Chattanooga-based mall operator said it drew down its $280 million available balance on its credit line to ensure it can continue to pay its bills and operate while many of its retail centers are forced to close by government orders, including in its hometown.

"Given the difficulty of accurately predicting the financial and economic ramifications of the pandemic, we have taken immediate steps to preserve our liquidity position by drawing $280 million under our line of credit," said Stephen Lebovitz, CBL's president and CEO. "This action serves to maximize our financial flexibility during this period of uncertainty."

Lebovitz said CBL has no unsecured debt maturities until 2023 and the company is also preserving liquidity by suspending both its preferred and common stock dividends indefinitely, which CBL announced in December.

CBL also said Wednesday it is withdrawing its previous earnings guidance for 2020.

Ahead of the announcement by CBL, the company's stock fell by nearly 14.1% to 29 cents per share Wednesday in trading on the New York Stock Exchange during a day when most U.S. stocks traded higher.

CBL shares have declined by more than 72% so far in 2020, and are down by nearly 84% in the past 12 months.

The moves to draw down its credit lines came a day after CBL shut down the Hamilton Place and Northgate malls in Chattanooga after Mayor Andy Berke issued an executive order for such retail facilities to close by midnight Wednesday.

"Over the past few weeks, CBL has made the safety of our employees, our customers, our tenants and the communities we serve our top priority," Lebovitz said. "I am proud of the CBL organization's commitment and response as we face this unprecedented situation.

CBL's portfolio is comprised of 108 properties, totaling 68.2 million square feet across 26 states. CBL operates 68 shopping malls and open-air retail centers and manages another nine properties for third parties.

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