CHICAGO-First Industrial Realty Trust Inc., the nation’s largest diversified industrial REIT, reported that third quarter FFO grew 11.9% to $43.1 million from the same period a year earlier. The trust is on track with its exit strategy from eight markets nationwide, while executives say they are pleased with the prospects for 2001 earnings growth.

“First Industrial does not need fixing anymore,” the trust’s CEO Mike Brennan told a group of analysts gathered for a conference call. Calling the asset realignment strategy he has implemented a success, Brennan says First Industrial is now focused on delivering “sector leading earnings and return on asset growth.”

After First Industrial embarked on a dubious acquisition tear several years ago, Brennan was elevated by the trust’s board to clean up the mess. He implemented a strategy of exiting under performing markets, with plans to concentrate on 25 markets identified as exceptional, including Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Northern New Jersey and Atlanta.

“They met expectations,” says Prudential real estate analyst Lou Taylor, who says he continues to see annual FFO growth for First Industrial in the 8% to 10% range, about average for industrial REITs. For First Industrial to be among the top performers as executives are now predicting, “a lot of things would have to go right”, Taylor says.

First Industrial’s Integrated Industrial Solutions (IIS) real estate services strategy is starting to see good results one year after implementation, according to COO Gary Heigl. “We have entered into $170 million of build-to-suit transactions in the last 12 months,” Heigl told analysts. “These client relationships we are building are also important for acquisitions and sales as well as leasing.” Heigl said that First Industrial is processing additional IIS transactions with clients like Handicraft, American Express and SC Johnson.

Mike Havala, the trust’s CFO, says that the trust’s target is to grow per share FFO in the 13% range annually. Fourth quarter FFO is expected at 94 cents per share, while 2001 FFO is expected at $4.05 per share, Havala told analysts.

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