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IRVINE, CA-Phillips Edison & Co. has named former Passco vice president of acquisitions Paul Mittmann to head a new Southern California office here as the Cincinnati-based owner and operator of neighborhood shopping centers looks to acquire grocery-anchored centers in the region. Mittmann, who joins Phillips Edison as director of West Coast acquisitions, tells GlobeSt.com that the Cincinnati-based company is raising a $500 million equity fund that it will pair with a $500 million credit line for its Southern California retail acquisitions.

“The Southern California region is a big emphasis for us right now,” says Mittmann. He says that he would like to close his first Southern California deal in the second quarter and that Phillips Edison would like to invest a majority of its new fund in Southern California.

Phillips Edison, which owns about 25 million square feet of neighborhood shopping centers, has no assets in Southern California right now. The company formerly serviced the region from an office in Salt Lake City but has hired Mittmann in order to have someone on the ground here who is familiar with the market.

Mittmann was also based in Irvine when he was with Passco, where he sourced, negotiated, administered and financed more than eight million square feet of retail, industrial and multifamily properties with a market capitalization of more than $1 billion. Before Passco, he was a senior real estate associate with Penner and Associates in Fullerton, CA, where he conducted valuation and acquisitions advisory services on retail, industrial and office portfolios for clients such as Cal Fed, Union Bank and GE Capital.

Mittman says that Phillips Edison wants to establish a presence in Southern California not only for geographic diversification but also because the company believes that now is an opportune time to buy. Prices now are more realistic than they were before the market turned, and there is less competition from other buyers, he explains.

In addition to Southern California, Mittmann will also be looking for grocery-anchored centers in Phoenix, in other parts of Arizona and in New Mexico. He says that Phillips Edison already has a commitment for the of credit, which will allow the company to place 65% of the acquisition cost of a property on the line of credit. The company’s business plan calls for deploying the capital in its new fund by the end of 2010.

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