Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Local REIT sets record during 2012 buying spree

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ARTIS Real Estate Investment Trust has been on a buying spree, setting a new company record for the highest dollar volume of purchases in a single year with more than seven weeks to go in 2012.

The Winnipeg-based REIT has completed $940 million worth of deals since the start of the year, including another four announced late Monday valued at a total of $190.7 million.

"It's a record for sure," president and CEO Armin Martens said in an interview Tuesday.

What's surprising is that at the start of 2012, Martens said Artis would likely ease up on its purchases in this year after completing a then-record $615 million worth of deals in 2011.

Asked Tuesday why those plans changed, Martens said: "Some good opportunities presented themselves. That's really what it was."

He said Artis's shares also have performed well this year, which reduced its borrowing costs, and capital markets have been receptive to lending money to Artis and other REITs.

Martens said it's hard to say if Artis is likely to acquire any more properties before the end of the year.

"We're always looking at things," he said, but real estate prices also have increased quite a bit over the course of the year.

"So that makes it a little more challenging."

Artis, which will be releasing its third-quarter 2012 financial results after the markets close today, now boasts 214 properties -- a total of 23 million square feet of space -- in its portfolio.

That includes retail, office and industrial properties in both Canada and the United States.

The latest transactions included the Aug. 27 acquisition of an 105,600-square-foot industrial building in Saskatoon for $9.6 million; the Sept. 20 acquisition of a five-property, 376,736-square-foot industrial portfolio in Mississauga for $33.5 million; the Oct. 26 acquisition of an 11-property, two-million-square-foot industrial portfolio in Minneapolis-St. Paul for $96.6 million; and the Oct. 31 acquisition of a seven-building, 108,018-square-foot retail development in Edmonton for $51 million.

Martens said with the latest deal, Artis is now the second-largest industrial landlord in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market.

Artis's shares (AX.UN) trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange and closed Tuesday down eight cents to $16.19.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 7, 2012 B5

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