Blackstone Fund to Buy Shopping Centers for $473.1 Million

Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- A Blackstone Group LP fund agreed to buy 36 U.S. shopping centers, most anchored by grocery stores, from Equity One Inc. for $473.1 million.

Blackstone Real Estate Partners VII will buy the properties, which are primarily in the Southeast, Equity One said today in a statement. The portfolio was 91 percent occupied at the end of June, according to the North Miami Beach, Florida-based developer. The transaction is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter.

Retail centers with supermarkets are attracting investors because of the perceived safety of properties that consumers have to visit for necessities even in a slow-growing economy. Sales of U.S. grocery-anchored retail properties in the first half of this year exceeded the total for all of 2010, according to research company Real Capital Analytics Inc.

Another fund affiliated with New York-based Blackstone, the world’s biggest private-equity firm, bought the U.S. real estate of Australia’s Centro Properties Group for about $9 billion in June. The Centro deal included 585 community and neighborhood shopping centers in 39 states.

Equity One, which builds and operates shopping centers, plans to use proceeds from the sale to retire debt and pay for redevelopment and acquisitions.

The properties being sold are in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Publix Super Markets Inc., based in Lakeland, Florida, anchors 20 of the centers, according to the statement.

Lazard Freres & Co. was Equity One’s adviser, while Eastdil Secured LLC advised Blackstone.

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