Simon Property Group ( SPG), the country's largest mall owner, reported third-quarter results that beat analyst estimates and raised its guidance for the remainder of the year.

The real estate investment trust, which owns the Mall of America in Minnesota and 296 other retail properties in the U.S, said funds from operations -- a key measure of REIT performance -- increased to $351.9 million, or $1.19 a share, from $277.7 million, or $1.04 a share, a year earlier. Analysts expected FFO of $1.16 a share, according to Thomson First Call.

Net earnings available to common shareholders rose slightly to $74 million from $74.1 million a year earlier. On a per-share basis, earnings fell to 34 cents from 36 cents due to a greater number of shares outstanding in the most recent quarter.

Simon's revenue totaled $786.8 million in the quarter, up from $613.3 million a year earlier. Analysts expected revenue of $777.1 million.

Average rents per square foot at the company's malls rose 3.7% from a year earlier to $34.30, and occupancy improved to 92.6% from 91.8%.

Even though there is a fear consumer spending is slowing across the country, Simon and other mall REITs are protected by the long-term leases on their properties.

For 2005, the company raised its guidance for funds from operations of $4.90 to $4.92 a share, up from the original estimate of $4.70 to $4.82 given in January. Analysts had been expecting FFO per share of $4.89 this year.

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