Real estate investment trust Macerich ( MAC - Get Report) said its third-quarter earnings rose significantly from the year-ago quarter, helped by asset sales. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company reported funds from operations of $86.6 million, or 98 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $81.1 million, or $1.04 a share. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting FFO of $1.00 a share. The company earned $47.0 million, or 66 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $4.1 million, or 7 cents a share, a year ago. Earnings include gains on assets sales of $46 million. Third-quarter revenue rose 2.5% from a year ago to $213.2 million as against analysts' expectation of $186.5 million. The quarter saw Macerich sign 326,000 square feet of specialty store leases at average initial rents of $40.88 per square foot. Starting base rent on new lease signings was 23.7% higher than expiring base rent. "The quarter was highlighted by continued strong core operations. Occupancy remained high, leasing spreads were excellent and mall tenant sales growth continued at a healthy level," the company said. "In addition during the quarter we were active in selling non-core assets and improving our balance sheet. The ultimate use of the sale proceeds will be for our upcoming developments and redevelopments which is a very effective recycling of our capital. The strengthening of our balance sheet leaves us well positioned to take advantage of the pipeline of development and redevelopment opportunities in our existing portfolio." The company's shares were trading down $1.45, or 1.85%, at $76.94 Friday.