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FARMINGTON HILLS, MI-Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, the locally based real estate investment trust, is now looking for ways to increase shareholder value by beginning a review process of potential strategic and financial alternatives. Merril Lynch & Co. is acting as the company’s financial advisor.

In a release about the review process, Ramco-Gershenson executives say they will consider a wide range of options, including “potential financing and restructuring transactions, assets sales, and strategic transactions with third parties.”

Already the REIT has been approached by interested third parties about possible transactions. Miami Beach, FL-based Equity One Inc. has sent a letter of interest, but Ramco-Gershenson’s Board of Trustees has decided to look into alternatives and not open the company’s confidential information to Equity One at this time.

There is no timeline in place for the review process, but company officials say it will happen as “promptly as practicable.” Once the review is complete, executives say they may opt not to pursue any course of action, or go with one of the alternatives outlined in the process. Further information about the process and options will not be released until the entire review process is complete.

Likewise, executives say, “In order to protect the interests of all Ramco-Gershenson shareholders during its review, the Board of Trustees has adopted a limited duration shareholder rights plan, pursuant to which a dividend distribution of one preferred share purchase right will be made for each outstanding common share. The rights will not be exercisable unless a person or group becomes, or launches a tender offer to become, the beneficial owner of 15% or more of the Company’s outstanding common shares (including derivative positions), subject to certain exceptions.”

Ramco-Gershenson owns 89 shopping centers, having a total of 20.1 million square feet of leasable space in its portfolio. Malls are located in Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Indiana, New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland and Illinois. The REIT is run by Dennis Gerchenson, chairman of the board, president and CEO.

Equity One has a stake in 160 properties, 146 of those are shopping centers. They own property throughout the southeast and Atlantic coast, in 10 states. This deal, should it go through will expand Equity One’s portfolio significantly into the Midwest.

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