Taubman REIT's Asia Growth Forges Ahead

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Luxury mall REIT Taubman Centers ( TCO) recently announced its third-quarter operating results with the company's 12-month trailing mall tenant sales per square foot reaching $681, another record for the company. Mall tenant sales per square foot increased 6.2% for the three months ended Sept. 30 and 9.3% for the nine months ended Sept. 30.

Net operating income excluding lease cancellation income was up 7.4% for the three months ended Sept. 30, bringing 2012 year-to-date growth to 8.3%. Funds from operations, occupancy, leased space, rents -- all of our key operating statistics were up in the quarter. For the most recent quarter, FFO per share was $0.79, up more than 25% from the third quarter 2011 FFO per share of 63 cents. As Taubman's CEO, Bobby Taubman, explained during the recent earnings call:
NOI growth was a result of increased rents including percentage rent and recoveries. Rents and recoveries benefited from higher occupancy in our centers. Percentage rent increased due to our ongoing growth in tenant sales. This is all flowing from nearly three years of great sales. The metrics are clearly strong. We now expect NOI growth of about 6% for the year, that's up from our previous guidance range of 5% to 6%.

Average rent per square foot of $46.85 was up a solid 3.5% from last year. Year-to-date, average rent was up 2.8%, on track with Taubman's guidance of 3% for the year. In addition, Taubman's ratio of debt to total market capitalization stood at 30.5% at the end of the quarter, an all-time low for the company.

Betting on Growth

Taubman continues to make significant progress on its multi-pronged growth strategy, including recent groundbreakings: Chesterfied, Sarasota, San Juan, and the company's first projects in Asia.

Chesterfield, the company's first outlet center in suburban St. Louis, has all site approvals and the site there is fully graded. As mentioned on the earnings call, the delivery date has been accelerated to August 2, 2013, nine months from now, to take advantage of Missouri back-to-school tax-free holiday weekend.

In Puerto Rico, Taubman recently hosted a formal groundbreaking for the Mall of San Juan. Site work has begun and the company is currently targeting a late 2014 opening. Taubman expects to announce the exact opening date in the next few months. In Sarasota, Taubman just held University Town Center's groundbreaking. Site work is under way and utilities and grading will commence within the next month. The company has said that this project is around two years away from the scheduled opening on Oct. 16, 2014.

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