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Brookfield Office posts record leasing activity

Brookfield Office Properties marked its first quarter as a pure-play office company by reporting record leasing activity at its properties around the world.

The company sold its residential land business to Brookfield Asset Management for $515-million in a deal that closed last quarter, leaving it to focus on its office buildings around the world.

Funds from operations in the first quarter were $155-million, or 28 cents a share, compared to $133-million, or 25 cents a share a year ago.

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"We are encouraged by the record leasing activity accomplished during the quarter as we witnessed accelerated recovery in our primary markets," said chief executive officer Ric Clark. "With a solid backlog of advanced leasing discussions, developments positioned to commence in our primary markets, and progress toward our strategic goals, we remain positive about our 2011 performance."

The company - which has office buildings in Canada, the United States and Australia - leased 2.8-million square feet of space in the quarter at an average rent of $30.40 a square foot. That's 89 per cent higher than an average first quarter, and leaves the company with an occupancy rate of 93.6 per cent.

Some of the larger Canadian deals include a 10-year renewal for Bank of Montreal at first Canadian Place and a 17-year renewal for Suncor in Calgary at the Suncor Energy Centre. The company also finished preleasing a new building in Perth, Australia, with PricewaterhouseCoopers and Barrick Gold signing on as tenants. Work is expected to get started early next year.

The company also refinanced $1.2-billion in loans to take advantage of lower interest rates and repaid $382-million in financing.

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