Property sales help lower Duke’s debt load-WEB ONLY

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Duke Realty Corp. said today that it received $265.2 million from property sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 – money it will use to pay down debt including $125 million in unsecured bonds that mature next month.

The announcement comes the day after shares of the Indianapolis-based real estate investment trust took a beating on Wall Street, losing nearly 14 percent to close at $9.28 after Standard & Poors Ratings Service lowered Duke’s corporate credit rating.

Shares regained some ground early today, trading at $9.41 about 11:40 a.m.

In December, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Duke’s investment-grade credit ratings, citing its stressed debt load. The asset sale could help alleviate the strain.

“Liquidity is paramount in today’s uncertain environment,” Duke Chairman and CEO Denny Oklak said in today’s statement. “The sale of these assets is part of the company’s ongoing plan to improve liquidity and meet future debt obligations.”

Assets sold included:

– An 80 percent interest in two industrial properties – including one in Plainfield – totaling 2.3 million square feet. The properties were transferred to the company’s existing industrial joint venture with CB Realty Trust for $86.7 million. The 1.2 million-square-foot Plainfield building in AllPoints Midwest is leased by Prime Distribution Services. The other property is near Columbus, Ohio.

– Four out-of-market office properties totaling 343,000 square feet, for $59.8 million. Those properties are located in Cincinnati, St. Louis, North Carolina and New Jersey.

– Nine parcels of undeveloped land for which the company received $118.7 million, including $105 million from a previously announced sale of land near Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The government will build offices there to consolidate some federal operations; Duke will remain the property’s developer, said spokesman Joel Rueter.

Duke is scheduled to release fourth-quarter financial results on Jan. 29. The company reported funds from operations of 66 cents per share for the third quarter, down two cents from the same period last year.

Funds from operations are a common measure of financial performance for real estate investment trusts like Duke.

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