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MALVERN, PA-Liberty Property Trust–which turned in a solid first quarter during the recession–could see some near-term and further out opportunities as the market shakes out, Bill Hankowsky, its chief executive, said during a conference call.

“The pressure of fundamentals and the pressure of the capital markets is going to put some of our competitors in a tougher situation,” he said, explaining that Liberty could gain the upper hand in leasing transactions.

Though the office and industrial REIT has no plans to make any acquisitions this year, Hankowsky said, that could change later on as competitors experience defaults and aren’t able to secure refinancing. “There will be interesting investment opportunities,” he said.

Compared with other REITs, Liberty only experienced slight dips in earnings and occupancy during its first quarter. Occupancy only fell to 90.1% from 92.2% year over year, while FFO dipped to 72 cents per share from 80 cents during last year’s first quarter.

The company, which owns about 700 properties in the US and the UK, sold $45.6 million of assets during the quarter, an additional $19 million since then, and closed $317 million in secured mortgages. Management forecasts that it will dispose of $100 million of assets in total this year and double that in 2010.

Management predicts that, overall, business will be down for the year, with FFO coming in between $2.70 and $2.90 per share, compared with $3.20 in 2008. “We thought it would be an ugly year, and it is, and it will continue to be,” Hankowsky said.

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