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Mall operator CEO clarifies comments on Amazon bookstores

Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in the Manhattan borough of New York City, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

(Reuters) - The CEO of a U.S. mall operator who said this week that Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) plans to open up to 400 physical bookstores clarified his comments on Wednesday, saying they were "not intended" to represent the online retailer's plans.

Sandeep Mathrani, the chief executive of Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc (GGP.N), which owns and leases retail mall properties, said on his company's earnings call with analysts on Tuesday that Amazon had plans to open "300 to 400 bookstores." His comments drove down shares of bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc (BKS.N).

The mall operator did not, however, indicate whether the new statement means Amazon is not planning bookstores. Kevin Berry, the vice president of investor relations at General Growth, declined to elaborate further.

An Amazon spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the company does not comment on "rumors and speculation."

Before branching out to offer everything from fresh groceries to original TV programming, Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago.

Amazon opened a bookstore in its home city of Seattle in November. An expansion of bookstores would be a surprise reversal for the online retailer credited with driving physical booksellers out of business.

Amazon's bookstore in Seattle carries books selected based on customer ratings and their popularity on Amazon.com. The storefront also provides a space for visitors to test-drive Amazon's Kindle, Fire TV and other devices.

(Reporting by Mari Saito in San Francisco and Abhirup Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen R. Trousdale and Matthew Lewis)