UPDATE 1-General Growth 4th-quarter beats Street

Mon Feb 4, 2013 4:47pm EST
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NEW YORK Feb 4 (Reuters) - General Growth Properties Inc on Monday said a key measure of earnings rose 23.3 percent in the fourth quarter, beating Wall Street's forecast and helped by greater occupancy and sales at its malls.

The company said fourth-quarter funds from operations (FFO) increased to $312 million, or 31 cents per share, compared with $253 million, or 26 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

Analysts on average had expected the company to post fourth-quarter FFO of 29 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

FFO is a real estate investment trust performance measure that usually excludes gains or losses from property sales and removes the effect of depreciation on earnings.

Since emerging from bankruptcy at the end of 2010, General Growth has culled its portfolio of properties down to its most productive malls. It ended the fourth quarter with 125 U.S. malls and 18 in Brazil, down from more than 200 properties in 2010.

During the quarter, William Ackman, head of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, one of the top investors in the Chicago-based company, had urged the company to sell itself to Simon Property Group Inc, the No. 1 U.S. mall owner. A deal never materialized.

Ackman retreated last month after Brookfield Asset Management Inc which owns more than 40 percent of General Growth's shares, agreed to buy the General Growth warrants Pershing Square held.

Sales at stores its tenants' have operated at least a year rose 6.6 percent to an annual $545 per square foot on a trailing 12-month basis.   Continued...