Intu, which owns some of the UK’s biggest shopping centres, has appointed administrators as a “contingency” in case financial rescue talks fail.
In March, the owner of the Trafford Centre and Lakeside said it was in talks with lenders about new funding.
Intu had been struggling before coronavirus to fill outlets within some centres sites, and had heavy debts.
On Tuesday, Intu said “notwithstanding the progress made” it had appointed KPMG to plan for administration.
Since the coronavirus lockdown Intu’s centres have been partially shut, with only essential stores remaining open.
The company had about 60% of shopping centre staff and about 20% of head office employees on furlough.
The firm’s financial woes include making a loss of £2bn in 2019, failing earlier this year to raise £1bn in new funding, and having debts of £5bn.
The collapse and contraction of High Street retailers in the face of rising costs and the seemingly ever-increasing online shopping trend had already seen retailers closing outlets, leaving a number of landlords, such as Intu, struggling to fill empty space.
Intu has been attempting to sell shopping centres to raise cash.