* Q4 rental income up 18 pct to 1.39 bln shekels
* Net operating income up 19 pct to 939 mln shekels
* To pay dividend of 0.4 shekel a share
* IBI brokerage raises price target to 55 shekels
By Tova Cohen
TEL AVIV, March 28 (Reuters) - Israeli real estate investor Gazit-Globe expects moderate improvement in its markets in 2012 after reporting higher quarterly rental and operating income.
"I think that in the United States, North America, the recovery is under way. Overall, 2012 will be a little bit better than 2011," chairman Chaim Katzman told a news conference on Wednesday.
The recovery will not be equal for all assets but will focus on high-quality properties, Katzman said, adding he saw growth in European markets where the company operates such as the Czech Republic, Nordic countries and Poland.
Gazit-Globe, which listed its shares in New York late last year, invested 9.6 billion shekels ($2.6 billion) in 2011, acquiring 46 income-producing properties.
"Our acquisitions were focused on A-quality assets in large, supply-constrained cities with strong demographics in the U.S., Canada and Europe," president Roni Soffer said.
Gazit-Globe plans to continue to invest and buy assets in its main markets and look for new markets, Katzman said.
The company posted fourth-quarter net profit of 223 million shekels, compared with 226 million a year earlier as financing expenses due to a weaker shekel offset an 18 percent rise in rental income to 1.39 billion shekels.
Net operating income, which reflects core operations, rose 19 percent to 939 million shekels. Funds from operations, another key indicator, rose 5 percent to 111 million shekels.
Shay Lipman, an analyst at the IBI Investment House who rates Gazit-Globe stock a 'buy', raised his price target to 55 shekels from 52. They were down 0.2 percent to 39 shekels in midday Tel Aviv trade.
The fair value gain from investment property and those under development totalled 850 million shekels, versus 343 million in the 2010 period.
The company said it would pay a quarterly dividend of 0.40 shekel, up from 0.39 shekel in the third quarter, and will pay a minimum quarterly dividend of 0.40 shekel in 2012.
Gazit-Globe, focused on supermarket-anchored shopping centres, operates in the United States through Equity One and in Canada through First Capital Reality Inc . It is also the largest shareholder in Finnish group Citycon and together with Citigroup controls shopping mall developer Atrium European Real Estate.