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RioCan monitoring impact of Target pullout on tenant demand, rental rates

Property manager unsure of full impact of Target's discontinued Canadian operations

RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust says it's monitoring the long-term impact of Target's closure of its Canadian stores and the drop in oil prices. The property manager and developer said Friday it's not sure how other tenants and prospective customers will react to Target's closure of 133 stores across Canada. "Demand from tenants in the near term is expected to remain steady with continued upward pressure on rental rates within Canada's major markets. It remains uncertain, however, what the full impact of Target's announcement to discontinue its operations in Canada will have on rental rates and tenant demand,'' the company said. It added that "U.S. retailers considering expansion into Canada are doing so in a much more cautious and selective basis in their location decisions.'' RioCan's portfolio includes 26 Target locations, however the store closures are expected to have minimal direct impact in the short term, since the leases are mostly guaranteed by Target's U.S. parent company. The stores represent 1.9 per cent of RioCan's total revenue. The trust also said Friday the drop in oil has created uncertainty in certain Canadian and U.S. markets, although the impact in Canada has been partially buffered by increased consumer spending and the positive economic impact of a lower dollar on the manufacturing and exporting sectors. RioCan is one of Canada's biggest landlords, with interests in about 331 retail properties in Canada and the United States. It reported Friday a fourth-quarter profit of $172 million or 54 cents per unit, down from $265 million or 86 cents per unit a year ago due to a number of factors including a smaller gain in the fair value of its property portfolio. The fair value of its portfolio at the end of December was up $38 million, but that was less than the $134-million gain recorded in the fourth quarter of 2013. RioCan's funds from operations – a key measure for real estate companies – rose to $130 million or 42 cents per unit in the fourth quarter of 2014, up from $124 million or 41 cents per unit a year earlier.

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