Commercial Real Estate and Shopping Centers and Simon Property Group and Real Estate Investment Trust and Retail and Real Estate & Retail

Simon quarterly results improve as sales increase at malls

February 3, 2012

Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. shopping-mall owner, reported a 6.3-percent gain in fourth-quarter funds from operations as income from rents rose.

FFO, which gauges a property company’s ability to generate cash, rose to $678.9 million, or $1.91 a share, from $638.7 million, or $1.80, a year earlier, the Indianapolis-based real estate investment trust said Friday morning. Analysts expected FFO of $1.90 a share, the average of 18 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

The company increased its dividend to 95 cents a share, up from from 90 cents..

Simon is benefiting from a focus on regional shopping malls and outlet centers, which tend to perform better than the broader retail market. The company, which owns or holds stakes in more than 380 retail properties in North America, Europe and Asia, is raising rents and boosting occupancy rates as sales by its tenants rise and retailer demand for space grows.

“They’re arguably in the two best areas in retail,” Craig Guttenplan, an analyst at CreditSights Inc. in London, said before the results were released. “Outside of multifamily, they’re probably in the best shape of any REIT out there.”

Occupancy at Simon’s U.S. properties was little changed in the fourth quarter, at 94.8 percent. Average rent increased 4.4 percent, to $39.42 a square foot. Tenant sales climbed 10.7 percent, to $536 a square foot from $484 a year earlier.

Simon estimated FFO for the year in the range of $7.20 to $7.30 a share. Analysts estimate the company’s FFO will be $7.29 a share, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Revenue rose 4.6 percent, to $1.17 billion from $1.12 billion a year earlier. Net income rose to $363 million from $218 million a year earlier on a bigger gain from acquisitions and disposals.

Simon has reduced its holdings in Europe, selling its stake in a venture that owns 46 Italian shopping centers for an undisclosed amount to its partner, French supermarket chain Auchan’s property arm. Groupe Auchan SA’s Immochan unit acquired Simon’s 49-percent stake in the venture, the French property company said last month.

Simon's results were released before the start of regular U.S. trading. Simon shares rose 0.7 percent, to $137.45 each Thursday. The shares have advanced 34 percent in the past year, compared with an 8.2-percent gain in the Bloomberg REIT Index.

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