February 9, 2010 / 3:21 PM / in 8 years

UPDATE 2-RioCan earmarks C$500 mln for 2010 acquisitions

* Aims to stick to supermarket-anchored open-air centers

* Q4 FFO per unit C$0.28 vs analyst view of C$0.32

* Units fall to November low at C$17.97 (Recasts, adds details)

By Ka Yan Ng

TORONTO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Retail property developer RioCan REIT REI_u.TO, which reported lower than expected results on Tuesday, said it aimed to spend at least C$500 million more for the rest of the year on acquisitions, with an eye trained on the U.S. market, which it entered last year.

The country’s biggest real estate investment trust raised more than C$1 billion ($935 million) of capital through a series of equity, mortgage financing and debenture offerings last year, and its move into the United States barely dented the cache.

Executives of the Toronto-based REIT, which owns more than 200 retail properties, said few acquisition opportunities were currently available on home turf, and those that are for sale do not meet RioCan’s standards.

Instead, RioCan is looking to add to its $181 million joint venture with Cedar Shopping Centers CDR.N, which, in the fall of last year, involved seven grocery store-anchored shopping centers in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.

The key to expanding its U.S. presence will be the REIT’s access to capital, Edward Sonshine, president and chief executive, said on a conference call with analysts.

When RioCan first announced its foray into the United States, Sonshine said he was asked what set his REIT apart from the other 200 established players.

“Frankly, one of the reasons we didn’t go from about 2005 or 2006 on when we first started thinking about it is we couldn’t answer that question. In 2009, because of the financial shocks that drove through the market, we were able to answer the question,” he said.

“It was very simple answer: it was called access to capital. We had it, they didn‘t.”

RioCan is zeroing in on the same kind of properties it is already familiar with -- the supermarket-anchored open-air shopping center -- which it deems the “most defensive, most resilient” of the commercial real estate segments.

That compares to other segments such as the office market, where the global credit crisis hit hard, and has put the U.S commercial real estate market into its worst slump since the early 1990s.

“We’re sticking to that supermarket-anchored, unenclosed sort of model that we started with six months ago. We’re determined not to stray away from that,” said Sonshine, adding that the REIT was not looking to buy anything distressed.

RioCan hopes to announce a firm deal within the next 60 days.

RESULTS MISS EXPECTATIONS, UNITS FALL

Earlier, RioCan said fourth-quarter funds from operations, a key measure of profitability for real estate companies, fell 24 percent to C$66 million, or 28 Canadian cents a unit, hurt partly by higher interest expenses and lower gains on assets held for resale.

That was down from C$87 million, or 39 Canadian cents a unit, a year earlier.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had expected FFO of 32 Canadian cents a unit.

The softer results sent its units to a almost three-month low at C$17.97. RioCan closed 4.98 percent lower at C$18.13 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the second most influential heavyweight decliner in a broadly advancing market.

For 2009, FFO fell to C$1.20 per unit from C$1.48 a unit a year ago at RioCan, partly the result of the dilutive effect of equity issues to raise funds.

RioCan said its portfolio occupancy as at Dec. 31 was 96.4 percent.

$1=$1.07 Canadian Editing by Rob Wilson

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