Liberty Property Profit Rises

Earnings nearly double.
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Liberty Property Trust

(LRY)

, a real estate investment trust operator, said its first-quarter earnings rose 98.3% from the year-ago period, on $59.6 million gain on the sale of properties.

The company earned $90.4 million, or $1.01 a share, in the quarter, compared with $45.6 million, or 52 cents a share, a year ago. Adjusted for $59.6 million, or 66 cents a share gain on the sale of properties, earnings were $30.8 million, or 35 cents a share in the most recent quarter. On that basis analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of $32.9 million, or 37 cents a share in the most recent quarter.

First-quarter revenue rose 4.2% from a year ago period to $168.8 million. Analysts were expecting revenue of $175.1 million in the most recent quarter.

The company expects to earn $2.41 a share to $2.75 a share in the year 2006. Fund from operation is expected to be $3.10 a share to $3.20 a share in the year 2006. Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.55 a share in the year 2006.

"During the quarter, we executed our expanded disposition plan rigorously, and this execution has resulted in acceleration in both the timing and projected volume of sales for 2006. We now expect our 2006 sales activity to be nearly double previous projections," the company said. "Real estate markets continue to strengthen. We are pleased that in the first quarter we saw same store growth turn positive, but this progress is clearly slow and will only begin contributing to earnings in a meaningful way toward the end of the year.''

First-quarter operating income fell marginally 0.2% from a year ago period to $67.5 million and operating margin fell 174 basis points to 40%.

During the first quarter, the Malvern, Pa.-based company acquired six properties for a total investment of $33.8 million. These properties, which contain 610,000 square feet, are 97.1% leased, with a current yield of 8.7% and a projected stabilized yield of 9.1%.

On April 13, the company announced that it has sold an 80% interest in Comcast Center, a 1.2 million square foot office development project in Philadelphia, to Commerzbank AG, in a deal that values the property at $505 million.

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