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NEW YORK CITY-Just as Australia’s Multiplex said it was no longer engaging in talks about acquiring a $700-million portfolio belonging New Plan Excel, executives at the locally based REIT said they are still “continuing to explore such opportunities.” During the company’s first quarter results conference call, officials said they plan to add four to six development sites over the next six months and are on target with their predictions for the year. “We’re exploring opportunities in Australia; we have no other comment,” said Glenn J. Rufrano, chief executive officer.

New Plan’s total rental revenues for the first quarter increased to $130.5 million from $124.4 million in the first quarter last year. Funds from operations for the first quarter was $56 million, or $0.53 on a diluted per share basis, compared with $52.3 million, or $0.51 on a diluted per share basis, in the first quarter of 2004.

“We kicked off 2005 with a solid first quarter, achieving our occupancy targets and higher than expected rent spreads, while advancing our redevelopment efforts,” Rufrano added. During the first quarter, 146 new leases, aggregating approximately 831,000 sf, were signed at an average annual base rent of $10.27 per sf. And 179 renewals, aggregating approximately 649,000 sf, were signed at an average ABR of $10.72 per sf, an increase of approximately 8.6% over the expiring leases.

New Plan also acquired–including joint venture deals–five shopping centers and a vacant building and land parcel. The properties totaled approximately 884,000 sf of GLA and were acquired for approximately $136.8 million. The firm plans to add four to six development sites and plans to meet with a variety of retailers including Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Chipotle during the upcoming ICSC convention to discuss tenanting opportunities.

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