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) -- Hungry to invest in commercial real-estate, the worlds largest publicly traded private equity firm

The Blackstone Group

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said on Monday it will buy 36 grocery-store focused shopping centers concentrated in Atlanta and Florida from real estate investment trust

Equity One


for $473.1 million.

The mall space owner Equity One will put the money raised by the sale to pay down debt and grow retail-focused investments in other areas of the country like California and the Northeast. Blackstone will add Florida-based Equity One's retail space to its Real Estate Partners VII portfolio.

While the investment is a sign of Blackstone's bullishness on commercial real estate, it is targeted mostly at spaces that have  grocery stores like


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Publix Super Markets


as their largest tenants that bring in a constant stream of customers. According to a press release announcing the deal, the Blackstone is buying a portfolio that currently has a 91% rate of occupancy. Earlier in the year, Blackstone spent $9.4 billion to buy roughly 600 shopping malls throughout the U.S. from Centro Properties of Australia.

In preliminary numbers released from financial data firm Dealogic on Monday, global mergers and acquisitions for the third quarter that began in July and will end with September has fallen 23% from a year ago after posting gains of 22% and 23% in the first and second quarters.

Without a spike in deals this week, the third quarter will be the worst since the same time two years ago in 2009 when the economy had just emerged from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Not all negative, the Dealogic data still shows that the M&A market is growing. Even counting the recent quarter's fall, deals are up 7% to $2.15 trillion compared to this time last year buoyed by growth of 23% and 22%.

When the final results are announced next Monday, third quarter data will likely show that the real estate focused companies had the most merger activity. So far this year, there has been $205.4 billion in real-estate corporate takeovers, commanding almost 10% of the overall global M&A market. Mergers in the sector have grown at 32%, which was eclipsed only by the Technology, Chemicals and Construction sectors that posted 40% gains year over year in 2011. Finance, Telecom's and Oil & Gas companies are the only areas where mergers are below levels reported a year ago.

The United States is the top deal making country with $819.9 in mergers announced in 2011, 38% of the overall market. For the U.S., M&A will likely reach its highest level since the recession, growing at a 21% clip in the first 9 months of the year. Like the overall market, U.S. deal making fell in the third quarter. Barring any change in the U.S. deals announced, healthcare will be the largest sector for mergers after

Express Scripts'


paid $34 billion for

Medco Health Solutions


earlier in July; the largest deal of the quarter and since March.

Among countries with natural resource dependent economies, there can hardly be a bigger contrast in takeover activity. So far this year, takeovers in Australia have grown over 40% this year, while they have fallen 50% in Brazil in 2011.

Mergers being done between companies headquartered in different countries have risen 2.6% this year, with oil and gas companies leading the way at $103 billion, the biggest year ever 9 months in. Companies looking for an oil & gas businss to buy focused on the U.S. and bought up $41.9 billion worth of companies, led by Australian mining giant

BHP Billiton's

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acquisition of Houston- based Petrohawk Energy for $15.1 billion. It was the largest buyout of a foreign company in Australian corporate history.

Led by

Hewlett Packard's

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$10.3 acquisition of British software giant Autonomy, tech companies have the second most cross border mergers and U.S. companies were most interested in a foreign tech purchase. Interestingly, tech deals were done at a roughly 34% premium, the highest of any sector.

Breakup fees increased to$24.5 billion the highest of any pre-recession year led by the $3 billion that


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is set to give T-Mobile if its purchase, which has been halted by the Department of Justice on antitrust concerns, fails to be completed.


Goldman Sachs

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worked on $540.3 billion worth of deals for a leading 25.2% market share of M&A work since the beginning of 2011. If deals continue for Goldman bankers, they will retake the M&A top spot after narrowly being beaten out by

Morgan Stanley

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in 2010. In the U.S.,

JPMorgan Chase

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commanded a 35.1% market share after working on $631.6 billion in deals.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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