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ATLANTA-Cousins Properties Inc., a 40-year-old, locally based REIT with 13.3 million sf of office, 3.3 million sf of retail and 900,000 sf of medical office, has completed a strong third fiscal quarter.

The company’s funds from operations per share increased 15% to 61 cents per diluted share, up from 53 cents in the prior year period. FFO rose 14% to $30.4 million from $26.6 million previously.

For the nine months ended Sept. 30, FFO per share increased 10% to $1.70 per diluted share from $1.54 for the same period last year. FFO increased 11% to $85.7 million for the nine months, up from $77.5 million in third quarter 2001.

Company president/CEO Tom Bell attributes the strong FFO performance to increases in rental property revenue from properties that had been under development but became partially or fully operational. He also credits increases in management fees for the positive third-quarter and nine-month results.

In a prepared statement, Bell says lower general and administrative expenses also helped third-quarter numbers while an increase in profits from residential lot sales helped provide positive nine-month figures.

He says about four cents per share of the results for the third quarter represent termination fees paid by five tenants and seven cents per share of the nine-month results represent termination fees paid by 11 tenants who broke their leases before the terms were up.

Cousins’ portfolio of operational office buildings are 95% leased; retail centers, 96% leased; and medical office, 90% leased.

Still, says Bell, “most of our major office markets remain difficult and continue to suffer from significant vacancies.” He says the firm “sees little improvement in the near term.”

Income from continuing operations before gain on the sale of investment properties and extraordinary loss for the nine-month period decreased to $34.1 million or 68 cents per share from $36.6 million or 73 cents per share for the same period last year.

For the nine-month span, Cousins recognized a gain on investment property sales of $3.1 million or six cents per share versus $20.5 million or 41 cents per share in 2001.

A third-quarter development highlight was the ground-breaking of The Avenue West Cobb, a 176,000-sf specialty retail center in an affluent suburban area in northwest metro Atlanta. The project is the company’s fourth Avenue specialty retail center is projected to open in fall 2003.

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