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Duke Realty reports leasing at 5-year high

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Duke Realty Corp. handled more leasing activity last quarter than it has in any first quarter in five years, the Indianapolis-based real estate investment trust said on Wednesday.

The company, which reported first-quarter results in line with analyst expectations, said it leased 5.5 million square feet of space during the three-month period that ended March 31.

The company reported funds from operation, a key measure for REITS, of $62 million, or 28 cents per share, in the quarter compared to $105.8 million, or 71 cents per share, during the same period a year ago.

Recurring FFO for the first quarter was 28 cents per share compared with 50 cents for the first quarter of 2009. Duke said the variance was primarily attributable to an increase in its weighted average share count due to a common equity offering in April 2009.

Overall, Duke reported a first-quarter net loss of about $15.3 million on revenue of $335.7 million compared to a gain of $23.2 million on revenue of $322.4 million a year ago.

"We are beginning to see signs that the economy is improving," Duke Chairman and CEO Dennis D. Oklak said in a statement.

During the quarter, the company made several moves to deleverage its balance sheet, including the repurchase of more than $312 million in bonds. The company issued $250 million in new bonds on April 1. It now has $880 million available to pay upcoming debt maturities, including $850 million on a line of credit and $30 million in cash.

During the quarter, Duke sold properties worth $122.6 million, none of which are located in Indiana. And the company acquired 20 percent of two office buildings in South Florida for $8.7 million.

Overall portfolio occupancy edged up to 87.5 percent, from 87.2 percent on Dec. 31, 2009.

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