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NEW YORK CITY-Well aware of the challenges—both macroeconomic and industry-specific—facing the retail sector, the Blackstone Group in recent years nonetheless has invested some $16 billion worldwide to acquire 120 million square feet of shopping center space. Jonathan Gray, the private equity giant’s global head of real estate, explained why Monday at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ New York National Conference: it was the basis that his firm could go in on.

In February 2011, Blackstone won the bidding for Centro Properties Group’s US assets, picking up 588 shopping centers for $9.4 billion. More recently, the firm entered the Turkish market by acquiring Redevco’s shopping center holdings in that country, and acquired Top A Ryde, a Sydney, Australia mall in receivership, for $352 million, less than half its replacement cost. “Distress created a favorable basis in all of these cases,” Gray said in his general-session presentation at the annual conference.

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