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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

BOCA RATON, FL-Locally based Office Depot Inc. plans to open 15 new stores this year despite posting dismal financial results for the last quarter and all of 2008. The nation’s second-largest retailer of office supplies also plans to close 118 stores while pursuing sale-leasebacks of some locations it owns.

“We would prefer not to open new stores this year, but we have lease commitments which were pushed out from 2008 that require us to open within a set period of time,” Chuck Rubin, president of North American retail, told analysts during a conference call earlier this week. “We will continue to work to reduce the number of new store openings.”

Office Depot, which relocated last month from Delray Beach to a new 625,000-square-foot corporate headquarters at 6600 North Military Trail in Boca Raton, posted a loss of more than $1.5 billion during the last three months of 2008, citing restructuring charges that included store closings and job cuts. The company posted an annual loss of just under $1.5 billion, compared with a profit of nearly $396 million in 2007, along with a 15% sales decline over the year to $3.3 billion.

Company executives blame last year’s worse-than-anticipated results on reduced spending on office supplies. “We’re disappointed with these fourth-quarter results, which are largely a barometer for what is happening in our economy,” CEO Steve Odland said during the conference call.

The bad news took a toll on Office Depot’s share value, which fell to a new 52-week low Wednesday before closing at $1.10 per share on the New York Stock Exchange. Analysts are mixed on their views of the company, saying it has enough liquidity to endure an economic downturn but may want to rethink its emphasis on big-ticket technology items.

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