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MALVERN, PA-When the market turns around, and property owners are finally ready to sell, Liberty Property Trust could be one of the buyers, executives said during their third-quarter conference call. The REIT would likely buy multi-tenant industrial buildings and office properties in major metro areas where Liberty already has a presence, said Bill Hankowsky, chief executive officer.

That said, he doesn’t expect the industry to turn around any time soon. “The markets will remain challenged in 2010,” he said.

Liberty executed 207 leases totaling 3.5 million square feet during the quarter, but executives said the leasing climate is far from easy. “Leasing space is very much a deal-by-deal balancing act,” commented Robert Fenza, chief operating officer.

Meanwhile, Liberty’s fundamentals held up well. The company’s portfolio of 77 million square feet of offices and industrial is 89.3% occupied, down from 89.4% during the same year-ago period. Funds from operations dipped to 72 cents a share, down from 80 cents.

However, rental rates were down 13.9% during the quarter, with office rates falling 16.1% and industrial dropping 13.5%. The 2.4 million square feet the REIT has under development is just over 63% leased.

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