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LOS ANGELES-Atlanta-based Wells Real Estate Investment Trust Inc. says it plans to buy up to $500 million in acquisitions in Southern California, focusing especially on properties in the Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County markets.

David Steinwedell, chief investment officer for Wells REIT, says the company will be looking for single- and multi-tenant class A office and industrial properties that have long-term leases with highly creditworthy tenants. Steinwedell, describing Southern California as “home to some of the nation’s highest quality real estate assets,” says the REIT feels the time is right to buy in the Southland because properties here meet the company’s “stringent criteria for tenant creditworthiness and long-term leases.”

Wells closed its first major acquisition in Southern California in December when it paid $157 million for the Nestle Building in Glendale. The 545,000-sf class-A office tower is occupied entirely by Nestle USA and serves as the company’s US headquarters. The Nestle Building purchase, Steinwedell says, typifies the caliber of property Wells is seeking.

Year-to-date, the Wells REIT has purchased more than $1 billion of properties, with a goal to acquire $2.5 billion by year-end 2003.

The company says it could acquire the $500 million worth of Southern California properties within the next six months. The acquisitions will continue a buying streak from last year, when Wells was the largest purchaser of class-A office buildings in the United States during the year, according to Real Capital Analytics.

Investments by Wells this year include large, class A office properties in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Englewood Cliffs, NJ and Auburn Hills, MI. The REIT also acquires industrial properties, corporate sale-leasebacks and build-to-suit projects that are leased to high creditworthy tenants. Besides Wells REIT, the company manages the Wells S&P REIT Index Fund and the Wells limited partnerships. It manages more than $3 billion in assets for more than 100,000 investors nationwide.

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