Chase Manhattan Corp. is leading a $3 billion loan to help finance Simon DeBartolo Group Inc.'s $5.87 billion acquisition of Corporate Property Investors, which was announced Thursday.

The loan to Indianapolis-based Simon DeBartolo, one of the largest owners and operators of shopping malls in the United States, is the biggest ever made to a shopping mall real estate investment trust.

Chase has fully underwritten the credit, which has a two-year term. It will be refinanced within that time through a combination of asset sales and other capital markets transactions, sources said. Chase is expected to begin syndication next month.

The purchase of Corporate Property Investors, a privately held REIT based in New York, would be the largest REIT acquisition yet.

Merrill Lynch & Co. advised Simon DeBartolo on the acquisition. Lazard Freres & Co. LLC and J.P. Morgan & Co. advised CPI on the deal.

J.P. Morgan was the top lender to REITs last year, leading deals totaling $8.6 billion for a 27% market share, according to Securities Data Co. Chase Manhattan ranked second, leading $8 billion of deals and grabbing a 25% market share.

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