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CHATTANOOGA, TN-Executives at CBL & Associates are monitoring the store closings on the retail landscape, such as the recent announcements by Ann Taylor and Charming Shoppes, and expect more of the same. But they don’t expect closures or bankruptcies on a major scale, said Stephen Lebovitz, the company’s president, during the mall owner’s fourth-quarter conference call.

“We are certainly taking a guarded approach to business,” he said. “So far there has been more smoke than fire.”

One way the company is trying to ensure minimal exposure, Lebovitz said, is to make sure main anchors are committed and 50% of tenants are signed before starting a new development project. “We don’t start with a project until we’ve got good preleasing done,” he said.

CBL is considering the sale of some of its underperforming assets. Additionally, management is looking at the sale of some outparcel spaces to hotel operators who are interested in taking advantage of a mall’s dining and shopping traffic.

During the fourth quarter, FFO per share came in at 83 cents, down from 97 cents during the same year-ago period. Net income fell to $13.4 million from just under $31.1 million.

Occupancy in the company’s portfolio dropped one basis point to 94%. CBL owns interests in 159 properties, including 84 regional centers, across the country.

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