LOS ANGELES — Shopping mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. is willing to settle for a slice of its biggest rival, just two months after it had a buyout offer rejected as too low.

Simon, the nation’s largest mall operator, on Wednesday offered to help finance General Growth Properties Inc.’s exit from bankruptcy in exchange for a quarter stake in the No. 2 mall owner.

Chicago-based General Growth Properties owns the Maine Mall in South Portland.

Analysts suggested Simon may have backed off a bid for a complete takeover because of antitrust concerns. But a person familiar with the talks between the two companies said Wednesday General Growth has made clear it prefers a strategy that would give it the financial means to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, rather than to be taken over. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of not being authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Still, in a letter to General Growth CEO Adam Metz, Simon CEO David Simon stressed he remains ready to discuss a buyout of the company.

General Growth issued a brief statement noting it would study the latest Simon offer.

General Growth operates more than 200 shopping malls in 43 states. It sought shelter from creditors a year ago, resulting in the largest real estate bankruptcy in U.S. history.