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(Ian Ritter is national online editor for GlobeSt.com/RETAIL.)

FARMINGTON HILLS, MI-Canadian firm RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust and locally based shopping-center owner Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust have formed a $1.5-billion joint venture to buy and develop US shopping centers. Ramco will initially contribute some of its existing centers, totaling $450 million, into the agreement.

Toronto-based RioCan will own 70% of the venture, while Ramco will hold the remaining amount. Ramco will oversee the acquisition, development, redevelopment, management and leasing of the assets. The marriage will be the exclusive catalyst for the acquisition and development of US centers for both companies for two years after the agreement, with the exception of other joint ventures in which Ramco is already participating.

Ramco’s initial contribution will be between eight and 13 centers, said Dennis Gershenson, president and chief executive officer of Ramco, during a conference call on the deal. He would not specify which centers and states would be put into the deal but said that Michigan assets will be “well represented.”

The parties expect to formally close the deal some time during next year’s first quarter. Its terms include the purchase of 4.5% of Ramco’s stock by RioCan, at $36.39 per share. RioCan will also be able to purchase an additional 4.5% over the next three years at $43.15 per share.

“We have felt we needed an additional platform for growth,” says Edward Sonshine, RioCan’s president and chief executive officer. In an interview with GSR last year, Sonshine said, “The natural step for us would be to start exploring opportunities in the United States.”

This is not the first joint venture RioCan has undertaken with a US shopping-center owner. A joint venture it has with New Hyde Park, NY-based Kimco Realty Trust has owned Canadian centers since 2001. In February the firm signed an agreement with TIAA-CREF to acquire $500 million in Canadian value-added assets.

RioCan operates 204 properties in Canada and has eight under development. Ramco owns 81 shopping centers totaling 18.3 million sf.

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