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EDISON, NJ-Despite a difficult economic climate, Mack-Cali Realty Corp. executed 122 leases totaling 819,572 square feet, consisting of 576,171 square feet of office space and 243,401 square feet of office/flex space. Of these totals, 153,549 square feet were for new leases and 666,023 were for lease renewals and other tenant retention transactions. The locally based REIT also revealed its second-quarter financial results during a conference call yesterday.

For the quarter, FFO available to common shareholders amounted to $75.0 million, or 81 cents per share. Total revenues for the third quarter were $193.6 million, up from $189.3 million in Q2 but down from the third quarter of 2008 when revenues were $204.4 million. Thus far, the REIT has raked in $569.6 million in 2009. Mack-Cali’s portfolio was 90% leased at the end of the quarter, down from 90.6% at the end of Q2.

“While our occupancy is down a bit, largely due to shrinking space needs by some of our tenants and changes in their business plans, we continue to attract new customers seeking the strength, stability and superior product and location that Mack-Cali can afford,” said Mitchell Hersh, president and CEO.

However, Mack-Cali executive vice president Michael Grossman noted that a few large block expirations also contributed to the decrease in leased space. “We signed fewer new deals on a percentage basis than last quarter, with the higher renewal volume producing retention of 67% of our outgoing space,” he said, adding that the company’s earlier renewal program has reduced 2010 expirations to 9.7% of leased space.

Grossman also noted that almost 30% of Mack-Cali’s 2010 rollover will happen in the first quarter and the company is actively pursuing those tenants who have yet to commit.

Still, some major deals did get done in Q3 ’09, including KPMG’s 10-year renewal totaling 99,139 square feet at two buildings in Woodcliff Lake: 300 Tice Blvd.–53,409 square feet; and 530 Chestnut Ridge Rd.–45,730 square feet. Also at 300 Tice, JPMorgan Chase Bank National Assoc., a global financial services firm, signed a two-year renewal for 17,814 square feet.

PSE&G renewed its 47,604-square-foot lease at 20 Commerce Dr. in Cranford for another three years and three months. And New England Life Insurance Co., a subsidiary of insurance and financial planning provider MetLife, signed transactions totaling 15,984 square feet at 1305 Campus Pkwy. in Wall Township, consisting of a four-year and four-month renewal for 13,957 square feet and a six-year and one-month expansion for 2,027 square feet.

More recently, Mack-Cali secured two major lease transactions that were not reflected in the third quarter results. Law firm Day Pitney signed a full-building, long-term lease for 100,000 square feet at 1 Jefferson Rd. in Parsippany. Mack-Cali, which owns the building along with JPMorgan Asset Management and the Hampshire Cos., is responsible for leasing and managing the facility.

Another law firm, longtime Mack-Cali tenant Budd Larner, singed a lease extension through October 2024 for around 55,000 square feet at the landlord’s Short Hills property at 150 John F. Kennedy Pkwy. The 248,000-square-foot, class A building here remains 100% leased.

“The market conditions continue to be very challenging,” said Hersh. “Commercial real estate is deleveraging and there is uncertainty with respect to the looming debt maturities and market fundamentals,” he added. “However, we are navigating through this economic storm pretty well. We made sure, very early on in this cycle, that we were in front of our tenants well before lease expirations.”

Hersh predicts that Mack-Cali will complete 2009 with around $65 million of free cash flow, while 2010 could see the REIT finish with positive cash flow to the tune of $25 million, based on the current dividend level of 45 cents per share, per quarter.

However, don’t look for the REIT to dip its toe into the investment waters in the immediate future. “Very few properties that have come to market are of the appropriate quality for Mack-Cali’s portfolio,” Hersh noted. “Most of what is out there is secondary, tertiary product in very distressed situations. These are the kinds of properties we don’t want to own.”

Despite all of the “delay and pray” idioms industry experts are fond of tossing around, “at some point there will be a day of reckoning,” Hersh affirmed. “Over time, we are going to see opportunities in our markets, and the fact that we have an ability to act in a very facile manner will allow us to take advantage of some of these opportunities.”

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