* Q4 profit of 811 mln shekels vs yr ago loss of 865 mln
* Chairman sees U.S. real estate market stabilising
* Analysts raise price target for shares; shares up 1.73 pct
(Adds officials’ quotes, analysts’ comments, share price)
By Tova Cohen
TEL AVIV, March 22 (Reuters) - Israeli real estate investment firm Gazit-Globe GLOB.TA said on Monday it swung to a quarterly profit on gains from a swap of convertible bonds for shares in subsidiary Atrium as well as higher rental income.
Gazit-Globe, Israel’s largest real estate firm, posted fourth-quarter net profit of 811 million shekels ($217 million), compared with a loss of 865 million shekels a year earlier.
“We are very optimistic about the potential for this company in coming years,” Chief Executive Roni Soffer told a news conference.
Rental income rose 18 percent to 1.05 billion shekels.
The company bounced back in 2009 after it had large write-downs in 2008 for the decline in fair value of investment properties among its subsidiaries.
Gazit-Globe has 55 billion shekels in assets in 20 countries, up from 38 billion shekels in 2008.
It operates in the United States through subsidiary Equity One EQY.N, which acquired a controlling stake in DIM Vastgoed NV, a Dutch firm that owns 21 shopping centres in the U.S. In Canada, it controls First Capital Reality (FCR.TO).
Gazit-Globe is also the largest shareholder in Finland’s Citycon (CTY1S.HE).
In the quarter Gazit-Globe and partner Citigroup (C.N) swapped convertible bonds and options in Atrium European Real Estate ATRV.VI for shares, increasing their controlling stake.
Gazit-Globe now owns 30 percent of Atrium, a shopping mall developer in emerging Europe. With Citigroup it controls 49.9 percent of Atrium, formerly known as Meinl Europe Land.
Clal Finance brokerage raised its price target for Gazit-Globe to 45 shekels from 40 shekels following the results.
“We have no doubt that Gazit-Globe took advantage of opportunities that presented themselves during the crisis and is emerging from it strong,” analyst Yuval Ben Zeev said.
He maintained a “market perform” recommendation for the shares, which were up 1.73 percent at 39.44 shekels at 1147 GMT.
Gazit-Globe invested 5.5 billion shekels since the start of 2008 in its subsidiaries and in acquisitions. It has available 6.1 billion shekels in liquid reserves and unused credit lines.
IBI Investment House raised its price target to 44 shekels from 40.5 shekels and reiterated a “buy” rating, citing “impressive results”.
Chairman Chaim Katzman said he expects a slow, gradual exit from the financial crisis in the U.S.
“In the U.S. real estate market I think we are seeing a stabilisation,” he said. “I think it is a comfortable point for long-term investors to get in.”
He forecast a renewal of growth in the U.S. market of about 2-3 percent annually starting in 2011.
Katzman also foresees a comeback in the U.S. mortgage-backed securities market. (Editing by Sharon Lindores)
$1 = 3.74 shekels