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TheStreet Open House

Blackstone Making Big Retail Contrarian Bet

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Blackstone (BX) is making a big investment tied to the fate of big box outlets, cutting a joint deal to buy a $1.4 billion portfolio of 46 shopping centers that count TJX Companies (TJX), Kohl's (KSS), Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), Best Buy (BBY), PetSmart (PETM) and Home Depot (HD) as major tenants, among others.

The venture -- made with real estate investment trust DDR (DDR) -- signals a vote of confidence in the growth of strong-performing big box stores by the world's largest private equity shop on a continued retail recovery as the sector moves on from the crisis.

"We are excited to purchase this portfolio, which is experiencing a rebound in occupancy as retailers expand their space into high quality community and power centers around the U.S.," says A.J. Agarwal a Blackstone senior managing director.

Power centers are open air shopping centers with large tenants like a Bed Bath & Beyond, in contrast to enclosed malls that house small stores in addition to national brands.

Agarwal expects the deal to capture a recovery in store rental prices as many large retailers execute store expansion plans. The top tenants within the centers being acquired are T.J. Maxx, Kohl's, PetSmart and Dicks Sporting Goods, respectively, and the portfolio includes outlets in the Chicago, Boston, Washington and Naples, Fla., according to Agarwal.

Blackstone will own a 95% stake in the venture through one of its real estate portfolio'. DDR - a large retail REIT -- will make a $150 million in preferred equity investment in the venture and will own the remaining 5% stake.

Like its big European debt bet that was initiated as the crisis across the Atlantic escalated, Blackstone may be looking at capturing an upswing in the retail sector as it hits bottom. Recently, Sears Holdings (SHLD), The Gap (GPS) and Best Buy have seen their shares fall after announcing less than forecast earnings and sales.

For more on retail stocks see Goldman Sachs's 2012 consumer stock best buys and 5 consumer stocks that may be stars in 2012.

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