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SANTA MONICA, CA-The Macerich Co. looks to open new venues this year and next year as the shopping center REIT concentrates on new developments and redevelopments. The company highlighted its development plans during a conference call in which Macerich executives discussed the latest quarterly results with financial analysts.

Arthur Coppola, president and chief executive officer of Macerich, cited the stronger balance sheet that the REIT has achieved through its refinancing of some properties during the quarter. He also said the company is “well positioned to take advantage of the pipeline of development and redevelopment opportunities in our existing portfolio,” such as the new regional mall under construction at SanTan Village in Arizona. The San Tan project is scheduled to open the first phase of its 120-acre, open-air regional shopping venue in October in Gilbert, AZ, with approximately 130 retailers occupying more than 1.2 million sf.

Other projects under way include the Promenade at Casa Grande, a one-million-sf regional shopping center under development in Arizona’s Pinal County on the I-10 corridor between Phoenix and Tucson. Phase one is scheduled to open in the fall, with the project 90% committed.

Also expected to open later this year is an expansion at Freehold Raceway Mall in New Jersey, where construction is under way on a 100,000-sf, $40 million lifestyle component that is 90% committed. In addition, Macerich began an interior renovation of the existing 1.4-million-sf center in the first quarter that is also expected to be substantially complete in the fourth quarter of this year.

Next year at about the same time, Macerich expects to complete the redevelopment and expansion of the Oaks, a 1.1-million-sf, super-regional shopping center in Thousand Oaks, CA. The company is adding a 235,000-sf expansion and the market’s first Nordstrom department store.

For the quarter ended March 31, the company posted FFO of $85.1 million and 96 cents per share compared with $901 million and $1.05 for the comparable quarter last year. Net income totaled $2.6 million and four cents per share, compared with $7.4 million and 11 cents per share for the same quarter in the previous year.

Tom O’Hern, executive vice president and CFO, observed that this was the first time in the 13-year public history of Macerich that the firm has not posted an annual increase in FFO per share, and before 2006 the company had averaged double-digit increases in FFO per share. Among the factors reducing the FFO results were higher interest rates which were, according to O’Hern, “probably the biggest factor” and “adversely affected us by about 23 cents per share compared with 2005.”

On the other hand, the company reported that a number of measurements of its operations, including specialty store leases and same center tenant sales, showed significant gains. For example, the 359,000 sf of specialty store leases signed were closed at an average of $42.61 per sf, or about 24% higher than the expiring base rent. Total same center tenant sales increased 5.5%. The company’s portfolio occupancy rate of 92.8% compared to 92.5% at March 31, 2006.

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