* Manhattan market pressured, but offset by other areas
* Brookfield shares off 3.6 pct, FirstService up 9 pct (Adds details of Brookfield’s third-quarter earnings; in U.S. dollars unless noted)
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Asset sales helped lift profit at Brookfield Properties BPO.TO BPO.N and FirstService Corp (FSV.TO), and both property companies said they were well positioned to weather a downturn in the economy.
Brookfield said that its diverse portfolio and low-risk borrowing approach are key factors that will help it maintain its steady earnings capability and ensure it has liquidity.
Brookfield is a major landlord in the United States, particularly in Manhattan with its marquee property World Financial Center, where Merrill Lynch is a prominent tenant. [ID:nN29476259] It expects downward pressure on rents in the New York market.
The spiraling financial crisis has put Brookfield’s stock, as well as its rivals’, under pressure recently. Brookfield fell 3.6 percent on Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and was down 4.3 percent in New York.
It has dropped more than 50 percent since mid-September when the prospect of deep job losses came as Lehman Bros filed for bankruptcy and Merrill agreed to be bought by Bank of America.
“The world is very clearly in a different spot from where it was at the time of our last call. Or maybe it’s in the same spot and it’s just more clear what that spot is,” said Ric Clark, Brookfield’s chief executive.
“The good news for Brookfield Properties is that we have a healthy respect for the cyclicality of the real estate market.”
Brookfield’s 74 million square foot portfolio is comprised of interests in 108 properties, mostly in Canadian and U.S. cities. It includes Brookfield Place in Toronto and Bankers Hall in Calgary, Alberta.
“Overall, what they pounded home was the fact that their commercial operations are stable and they’re not expecting to experience a material deterioration in FFO from the business,” said Gail Mifsud, an analyst at Blackmont Capital.
Even with the “not so great” economic backdrop, the company’s long-term leases, high occupancy rate, and diverse tenant base contributed to a “solid” third quarter, Clark said.
Brookfield is “still comfortable” it will be able to meet its outlook for funds from operations (FFO) of between $1.44 and $1.52 per share this year, Clark said.
Funds from operations are a benchmark measure in the real estate sector, aimed at removing the distorting effects of depreciation.
Brookfield reported higher third-quarter FFO on Wednesday, while net income jumped, primarily because of a sale of a 50 percent stake in an office tower in Toronto. [ID:nN27322315]
Funds from operations rose to $152 million, or 38 cents a share, from $146 million, or 36 cents a share, a year earlier.
Net income climbed to $174 million, or 44 cents a share, from $3 million, or nil. Revenue rose 4 percent to $718 million from $691 million.
FirstService Corp (FSV.TO) reported a higher quarterly profit on Wednesday because of an after-tax gain related to the sale of its Integrated Security unit.
The property services company said it earned $78.2 million, or $2.64 a share, in its second quarter, ended Sept. 30, up from $15.97 million, or 50 cents, in the corresponding quarter of 2007. An after-tax gain of $2.34 a share was recorded in the quarter.
FirstService said that helped it reduce its indebtedness and fortified its balance sheet.
“The result is the lowest leverage ratios in our history as a public company giving us the financial strength and flexibility we need to continue to grow and prosper in the years to come,” CEO Jay Hennick said in a statement.
First Service gained 9 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
$1=$1.21 Canadian Reporting by Ka Yan Ng