General Growth Properties Inc. (GGP), the No. 2 U.S. shopping mall owner, has agreed to buy Rouse Co. (RSE) for $7.2 billion, expanding its holdings of regional shopping centers and commercial property, the companies said on Friday.

In the latest big deal among U.S. mall and shopping center real estate owners, General Growth will pay $67.50 for each share for Rouse, a premium of 33 percent over Rouse's closing price of $50.61 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

General Growth will also assume $5.4 billion of Rouse debt, making the deal worth $12.6 billion.

Rouse's properties include such landmark shopping facilities as Water Tower Place (search) in Chicago and Faneuil Hall Marketplace (search) in Boston.

The acquisition, expected to close in the fourth quarter, will add 37 regional malls, four community centers and six mixed-use projects to General Growth's stable of retail outlets.

The 40 million square feet of retail space generates sales of $439 per square foot and has an occupancy rate of about 92 percent.

Rouse also develops planned communities, such as Columbia, Md., and Summerlin, Nev., and has more than 9 million square feet of office, industrial and other commercial properties, primarily in the Baltimore-Washington and Las Vegas markets.

General Growth, with a portfolio of 178 regional shopping malls in 41 states, trails only Simon Property Group Inc. (SPG) among U.S. mall owners.

The deal is the latest example of consolidation in the mall arena. Earlier this week Mills Corp. (MLS) agreed to buy a 50 percent controlling stake in nine malls from General Motors Corp.'s (GM) pension unit. Earlier this summer, Simon struck a deal to buy Chelsea Property Group Inc. (CPF) for $3.5 billion to boost its outlet shopping center business and gain a presence in Asia.

Recently, Australian-based Westfield Group combined all of its worldwide mall operations, covering $19 billion worth of property.