Prices of shopping malls may return to 2003 or 2004 levels as consumer spending and the commercial real estate market recover, David E. Simon, the chief executive of Simon Property Group Inc., said. That would represent a price decline of as much as 23%.

Simon Property, the biggest shopping mall owner in the United States, has a $3.8 billion balance sheet and is looking at possible acquisitions, David Simon said in an interview.

"There is still a decent bid and ask difference between the buyer and the seller," Simon said. "I think the sellers' expectations certainly have gone down from where we were at the end of '07, early part of '08."

Prices may go "back to the '03, '04 period of time, somewhere in that range."

Sales of retail properties in the U.S. fell 71% in the first half of the year, to $3.6 billion, according to New York research company Real Capital Analytics Inc.

The announcement by Glimcher Realty Trust this week that it agreed to sell Lloyd Center, a regional mall in Portland, Ore., for about $192 million is one indication that buyers and sellers are beginning to come to terms, Simon said.

"We're getting closer," he said.

Sellers are no longer demanding prices equal to 20 times the cash flow of a mall, Simon said.

"I think those days are over. Yet are they willing to sell it at 12 times, and are we willing to part with our capital at 12 times? That's the rub."

In 2003, 120 regional malls were sold in the United States, with an average price of $123 a square foot, according to Real Capital. In 2004, 119 such properties were sold at an average price of $133 a square foot.

This year, only four regional mall sales show up in Real Capital's database, with an average price of $159 per square foot.

If prices fall to the 2004 level, it would be a 16% decline, while a drop to the 2003 average would be a 23% fall.

Simon Property, of Indianapolis, owns or has stakes in 387 properties with 263 million square feet of space in North America, Europe and Asia.

It's the largest real estate investment trust, with a stock market value of $20.1 billion.

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